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The online diary of an ethical pervert.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Shapes and sizes

This is a conversation that has been doing the rounds lately: BDSM and body shape. I had a very interesting chat with Offensive Charmer, and on and off with Captain, also with The Ladies Who, at length so there's a lot to go through.

Offensive Charmer and I were shooting the breeze over wine on Friday, whilst re-engaging with each other and our kinks and he mentioned that he has recently been playing more with women who were larger than "usual" type and finding how and where kink and traditional sexual attractiveness overlapped. This is especially interesting as he is involved in the New York scene were there is, according to him, a strong pressure to focus on the kink activity as the primary motivation rather than what someone looks like and whether you find them attractive. It is allegedly at such a point that labelling oneself with parameters for physical desires makes one "heteronormative" and therefore a bad person. And there is a special place in hell for you if you dare to utter the word "fat".

Following on from feminist musings by Susie Orbach, amongst others, I'm prompted to ask whether fat is a kinky issue? Like being white and discussing issues of race, I'm always somewhat uncomfortable as a slim woman talking about size. But I'm also of the opinion that the less we discuss things, the more mysterious and difficult they become. Additionally, other people are talking about it and certainly I have things to say.

Let's start with the tricky language involved. The word "curvy" for example, is used as much as a euphemism for "fat" as it is used an accurate descriptor of women with hips, breasts and bottoms. We don't know what we are talking about when we use these words. Unrealistic imagery of women in the media, clothes-hanger super models and poorly constructed methods of calculating BMI, together with hpyed-up issues over the "obesity scare" means that we aren't at all sure what size women are supposed to be. Added to that the leftist tendancy to get worried over phrases such as "supposed to be". We don't like talking about people in general, or about what might or might not be normal and consequently end up struggling when dealing with extremes. Yet there is patently a lack of representations of "normal" women, solely the extremes of super-skinnies and super-sizes paraded around. Consquently, we don't really know what mean when we say or try to imply "fat". It's a word heavily laden with social prejudice and we are squeamish about using it, except when we are trying to hurt or criticise.

Before we have started, we are in a difficult position.
Add to the mix the persistent rumour that those involved in the scene are a) less attractive than those with more mainstream sexual desires and b) that body-shape should matter less to kinky folk because we are supposed to be open minded / find the "alternative" attractive. I think that "attractiveness" overlays heavily on body shape and size so I've spent a while prodding these ideas with sticks and encouraging other people to do the same. First, I don't think that people in the scene look particularly different to other people. I've met folk I find hot and folk I don't find hot. The second point is more challenging to unpick, after all, I have had satisfying BDSM experiences from people I don't neccesarily find attractive. This came about because I have been seeking out specific skills and types of play and they were the people who could do it, so in that situation it has been the kink that has driven my desire. However, the people I play with often, the people I play with regularly and certainly those I have developped relationships with have been those I've found attractive in and of themselves. Critically, when it comes to talking about size, however, the majority of those people have been men. And ultimately, a larger man comes under a lot less fire than a larger woman, because society cares less about what they look like.

In life, as in kink. The attractiveness of the man is less important than his abilities. The abilities of a woman come after her attractiveness has been weighed and measured. We can accept the less than attractive gentleman if he delivers a good flogging, but not so the lady. We reflect traditional prejudices within the scene and nowhere more clearly than here. The conflation of "female" with "submissive" is a big factor in this, as is the assumption of women as objects for male sexual consumption (whether the male is submissive or dominant doesn't seem to matter - the look of the woman is the important thing).
However, there are signs of change here, as society turns it seems that kink will turn also and that the issue of size might become less problematic as we stop viewing women in a particular way. Action is as important as theory when it comes to challenging these prejudices. One of the activities that has come out of The Ladies Who (and I think we are a good selection of many-sized kinky women) is a femdom event in which women are encouraged to dress, behave and play exactly how they want to, rather than just within the confines of a stereotypical Domme "look".

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