Responding to Wakeman

Natty got several posts up about this before I managed to, but I'm not
bitter or anything. 😉 But since Natty got her posts up before me, I feel *totally* justified
in focusing on the things that really bugged me about the article.
There were some good sides to the piece, and for a moderately
mainstream examination of DD, she did portray a couple of different
viewpoints.

HOWEVER. Whether because she wound up writing for Bitch Magazine, or
because of her own biases, the structure of the article, the framing of
quotations from her sources, and her choice of sources she quoted at
all really reinforces one end of the spectrum of domestic discipline.

By beginning and ending the article with an extended discussion of sources like "Loving Domestic Discipline" and the people who believe in the whole "surrendered wife" thing, readers unfamiliar with the range of approaches to DD are likely to come away with the idea that those attitudes define DD. Throughout the article, Wakeman failed to draw a distinction between the different ends of the spectrum. For example:

The crux of domestic discipline is that women's behavior is inherently rife with transgressions, and the discipline provided by their intimate partner will be a leveling force… In addition to disciplinary spankings, MrLovingDD also advocates "maintenance spankings," which, he explains, "help to build on the existing levels of the woman's obedience, respect, and honesty.
Mija… describes DD simply. "To be really trite, take the Volkswagen ad. 'On the road of life, there are passengers and there are drivers.'" In their figurative VW, Pablo… disciplines Mija….
"I decide that there's some sort of goal I want to achieve and he enforces it," explains Natty… who writes about her DD relationship on a blog called The Punishment Book….

(Yeah. Cause Natty is the *only* woman writing here. Hmpf. ;P )

By framing the quotations from Mija and Natty this way, Wakeman implies that they believe gender is the central dynamic in domestic discipline. I think, had I not already known Mija and Natty, I would believe that they also believe the point of domestic discipline is to rein in women, whose behavior is "inherently rife with transgressions." Now, I don't presume to read their minds, but I'm pretty sure that neither Mija nor Natty really agrees with MrLovingDD.

The repeated focus on the male/female dynamic set a tone for the article that rubbed me the wrong way. It reinforced the (imo) misogynist beliefs of the LovingDD types, and undermined the feminist possibilities of other ways of doing "this thing we do." It would be as though she were writing an article about Christianity, and framed it to imply that all Christians are of the Jerry Falwell type, even when she was quoting people with more liberal views.

In order to do that, Wakeman had to exclude a portion of the DD community. In her mind, it is a small section, perhaps not relevant to the larger discussion. Buried between parentheses in the middle of the article, she noted

Theoretically, a man can be the submissive in a heterosexual domestic discipline relationship, and a DD relationship can be same-sex, but based on both Internet presence and the couples that I interviewed, it's far more common to find heterosexual, female-submissive practicioners.

Let me speak up as one of the people interviewed for this article. I am in a same-sex relationship, and we practice domestic discipline. I have a blog, and I am one of the writers at the Punishment Book. And I have some opinions as to why it's far more common to find heterosexual, female-submissive practicioners of DD.

Groups like "Loving DD" specifically exclude couples who don't match their vision of why domestic discipline is necessary in relationships. They deny that anyone who practices outside of the male-dominant, female-submissive paradigm is truly engaging in domestic discipline, because they adhere to the misogynistic belief that women should be sumissive to their male partners. All women. All partnerships.

Last fall, when W and I were struggling to figure out how to navigate this thing we do, we tried joining a couple of other bulletin boards. We tried a few, and weren't having much luck. I finally snapped when the moderators of the least annoying board I found moved my introductory post to the BDSM forum, insisting that because W and I are both women, what we do is kink, and not discipline. So I started This Thing We Do, and discovered a lot of other people who have felt excluded from other DD forums for a lot of reasons.

Just because people are excluded doesn't mean they don't exist. Fifty years ago, there weren't many black people in Ivy League insitutions. Was this because black people weren't intelligent enough, or because they were specifically kept out of those institutions? Yet, there were those who made an argument that intelligence was inherently tied to whiteness. Right now today, same-sex couples are denied the right to marry, with the argument that marriage is about heterosexual partnership. Does this mean that same-sex couples don't exist, or that they don't make long-term partnerships, or that they don't do any of the things straight couples do? (Well, according to my mother, the big difference between my lesbian relationship and my sisters' straight ones is that W and I spend a lot of time working on communicating well. But I wouldn't argue that it's our homosexuality that makes that happen!)

So okay. Some of this is irritation at all of the ways my relationship is dismissed, and most of that is not Wakeman's fault.

But at the same time, I am annoyed by this exclusion as a feminist. People tend to fall back on gender as an explanation for behavior at points where gender is not, in fact, the cause. Whether it is domestic discipline or the discussion of who is responsible for doing the grocery shopping, gender cannot be the answer.

Very often, I will hear straight people talking about their relationships, ascribing the challenges to the differences between men and women. Some of our (perhaps less enlightened) straight friends say they wish they weren't straight, because they think their relationship problems would go away if there weren't those gendered differences.

I am here to say that relationships–straight, gay, polyamorous–are WORK. They take work. They take HARD work. And they take a lot of it. And domestic discipline takes work. It isn't going to save you the trouble of learning how to communicate with your partner. It doesn't excuse you from being able to express your needs and desires. All DD is is a tool couples can use.

Taking gender out of the equation forces me and W to look at ourselves. It forces me to take personal responsibility for this need. I do not need it because I am a woman. The reason W does *not* need it isn't because of her gender, either.

Accepting myself for who I am is a radical act. It challenges the idea that there is only one way of doing things, only one way of being a good (take your pick: feminist, woman, Christian, pagan, black person, abuse survivor, healthy adult…). And it does challenge me to think about why it is that I have these needs. If the answer is not "because I am a woman," then I'm left with a lot of work to do on understanding myself and who I am.

I suspect some of the reason that W and I were excluded from other forums is that some people don't want to have to do the work of understanding themselves and their relationships. It is easier sometimes to exclude dissenting viewpoints, in order to not have to examine your own experiences too closely.

And Wakeman's article gave those people an out. It left a broad path by which readers of the article can dismiss DD as misogynistic, and reinforced the tendency of feminism to exclude what isn't comfortable. It also allowed those who believe that DD works because "women's behavior is inherently rife with transgressions" not to challenge that belief for themselves.

I'm not completely certain why this thing we do works, but I know it's not because my behavior is any worse than W's. I don't know why I need external discipline, but it's not because I am submissive to W.

To me, the best of feminism comes when it challenges our assumptions about how people interact with each other in the world. Wakeman's article, for all of its positive sides, doesn't do that for me.

8 thoughts on “Responding to Wakeman

  1. sweetsassyT

    Nice job. I must confess, I did not read the article, but got a strong understanding of the tilt. I am single, and dating. It’s hysterical to me that the writer took this angle. I have met FEW men that tell me they have not at some point spanked. Then I ask, did you spank your X. No, she wasn’t into it. Hmm. Two gents are now married and regularly using it. One couple has a notebook and they are keeping track of various things and spank accordingly. They switch tops on occasion as well. I said to him, “oh, you’ve moved from erotic spanking into DD.” He had no idea what that was. When I explained it he adamantly denied it. Why? He is as openminded as anyone I’ve ever met. He attends church, and likes it, three times a week! Yet, he has no intentional of being considered one of those “wackos”!
    I think you are SOO right. This is very much still in the bedroom. Lots of someones are doing it, and no one admits it, hence they be label a Christian Funadmentalist freak. And, in lots of ways, that is the sad part about it. I have studied this way of life, and read blogs from all kinds of pairings. Every single one of them reports on the intimacy and connection. I’ve seen a few fail, but it is certainly not in the numbers of other relationships. There is a pure vulnerability and trust that must exist between two people to engage in this. It is a huge advantage in keeping down those barriers and walls we all have and we all fight to keep down in a relationship. The fundamentalists are right in their belief in it’s advantages, that’s the sad thing for all of us. By bringing the rest of their beliefs and values and tagging them and judging and condoning the rest of us as “just not doing it right” does damage to the whole philosophy of the lifestyle.
    Have faith, though, as I mentioned, and I think you know, it really isn’t hindering the practice. Keep talking and yelling if you have to. The bedroom participants need to know you are there, and it’s ok to admit it. What is most disappointing is that the article is so predictable. Why do we always have to go the route of what is perceived to be the accepted norm and reported as such when the actual truth is as easy to find and is so much more rich and interesting to consider. Sigh!
    Hugs to all!
    ~sweetsassyT

    Reply
  2. Gwen

    I’m feeling a bit slow on the uptake tonight. After reading your interesting comments, I wanted to read the actual article and clicked on the link in Natty’s post (which took me to the Bitch magazine web site, but not the specific article).
    How can I read the article without subscribing? Feeling cheap today.

    Reply
  3. Dyke Grrl

    They don’t seem to have this article posted online. I don’t know if they just haven’t gotten around to it, or they aren’t planning on posting it online. I suppose you could go to a bookstore, and stand in the aisle reading it. This is apparently a common behavior at chain stores, or at least, when I was trying to find the magazine, I had to navigate around three or four people reading entertainment magazines cover to cover….

    Reply
  4. Natty

    First off, I just wanted to say that I love Dyke Grrl’s post and I commented on it extensively at her blog.
    Second, in regards to sweetsassyT’s comments, one of the things A. and I were talking about this afternoon was how much trouble Wakeman had with selling an article about DD despite pitching it to magazines who have published articles on spanking. They all found *this* type of spanking too edgy. Which was a bit of a shock to A. and I. It reminded me that I live in a sort of bubble in which I write about this on two different blogs, not to mention read a gazillion blogs about it, and live it every day. I’m used to it but a lot of people are not. Our circle of friends differs from the public at large.
    And while I’m troubled and disappointed with the gendered approach, Wakeman’s thesis is not all that different from your thesis, sweetsassyT, namely, that this is a way couples have found to do a relationship that seems to be working when a lot of relationships aren’t. Now, you two may differ in how couples come to do the relationship that way (Wakeman appears to place it within a need to return to traditional gender roles whereas my guess is that you don’t and I agree that I’m not sure traditional gender roles has even predominately anything to do with it). But I’m not sure Wakeman is really saying that we’re “just not doing it right.” Rather she’s simply offering a suggestion as to *why* we’re doing it — a why I don’t think is entirely accurate.
    And I agree: “the actual truth is as easy to find and is so much more rich and interesting to consider.” I would have much rather preferred an article looking at the variety within DD.
    Oh and Gwen, there is a possibility that they may put it online as I’ve noticed with my RSS feed that over the weeks they tend to put more stories online. Whether this will be one of them is anyone’s guess, so Dyke Grrl’s suggestion may be your best bet.

    Reply
  5. Bodack

    I am still laughing over the Same Sex DD is not DD it is BDSM. I went to college with Hindu’s. They were vegatarian. No fish, no chicken, no beef. But to a lot of vegetarians here eating chicken and fish is ok. If you don’t eat chicken and fish then you are Vegan.
    What is not so funny is your use of the term misogynistic. This means”having or showing a hatred and distrust of women” In reality what is being discussed is role definition. In Korea men exist to bring home money for the family, they don’t take care of the kids, they don’t cook. When they entertain, she cooks and he takes care of the guests. He can’t do what an American Male does. Break out the barbecue, cook the food, make sure everybody has a beer while the Wife entertains. Role definition is not hatred.
    The moderator you are complaining about has a responsiblity to maintain the threads to maintain the readership. If he feels his readership does not consider DD to include same sex relationships then it is his responsibility as well as his right to move your post.

    Reply
  6. Dyke Grrl

    The moderator of the other group had every right to define the community she wanted to be associated with. This would be why I didn’t sign on with a different screen name and continue to post there, making a huge campaign to have my way. I responded by taking myself away from their forum, where I was not welcome as the person I am, and making a forum for people who are more open and accepting (there are even male-top/female-bottom hetero couples on the board: *we* accept *everyone* ;P )
    I stand by my comments about misogyny. I don’t believe that role-definition, or even separation, is necessarily misogynistic. But I believe that assigning one gender to roles that are consistently perceived as lower-status, and saying that one gender has fewer positive attributes by virtue of their gender, and nothing else, *that* is misogynistic.
    I’m speaking from the perspective of someone thoroughly acculturated to western (specifically, American) culture. And it is possible that the female roles are not perceived as lower-status in Korea (although I’ve had some female Korean friends voice some complaints about how things are, and they gave me the impression that lots of other women were also unhappy with the status quo… and if one gender is unhappy with their role, then I’m not sure it’s a good idea to say “that is how our culture is.”)
    Anyhow, thank you for commenting. And you are certainly entitled to continue maintaining the beliefs you have.

    Reply
  7. Indiana

    That last comment was very nicely done, Dyke Grrl. The previous commenter did make me wonder why we use the words homophobic on the one hand and misogynist on the other.
    I loved your Wakeman post, too.

    Reply
  8. Dyke Grrl

    Geeze. Gotta remember to not close the window before I get the screen with the visual confirmation.
    Thanks, Indiana. It’s always good to know when people find my writing useful.

    Reply

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