Open Question

[cw: self-harm talk, D/s and pain play talk]

Here’s a fun question.

(That’s false.  This is not fun.)

If we acknowledge 1) self-harm in relation to deliberate physical damage, ex. cutting, and 2) self-harm in relation to otherwise neutral pursuits, ex. sex as self-harm, then

what would constitute self-harm within kinky contexts?

If we acknowledge 1) self-harm with one actor / direct self-harm, and 2) self-harm with more than one actor / indirect self-harm, then

in what ways or under what conditions could doms, “sadists,” and tops fill the role of second actor?  What about subs, “masochists,” and bottoms?

What are the limitations of “consent” in relation to sex-as-self-harm and and seeking replicas of former abusers, and to what extent does that translate over to kink?

I’m asking because I don’t know.

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4 responses to “Open Question

  • epochryphal

    heh, even though it’s you asking and i trust you, my reflex is “why are you asking? how are you planning to use this? to Stop self-harm, to intervene for people’s own good? to make folks hyperaware and terrified of ~enabling~ someone’s self-harm, where it becomes policing and you-must-prove-this-isn’t-harm even when someone is asking for something and externally consenting in every way?”

    idk i think it’s valuable to talk about the trickiness around self-harm, around say cutting vs decorative cutting in a scene (hell i want these conversations) – but a blanket “what could this look like” sounds so…outside curious psychologist intervention framework. (and besides self-harm can look like anything; and and and, agency, and, risk-reduction instead of abstinence or pathologizing;)

    • Coyote

      I’m more like… unversed in ethical discussions around self-harm, but know more/know there’s more to know than I used to, and I’m assuming “yes self-harm can take many forms but not kink because it’s kink” is… a… bad… idea…

      I don’t know, what even IS agency.

      • epochryphal

        this is all quite true yeeeesss. god it’s complicated. i think i’ve seen a rare few folks talk abt kink as self-harm for themselves though? and i’m not sure i’ve ever seen a direct “kink can’t be self-harm” — in fact there’s so much trash policing of the whole “safe sane consensual” and “positive enthusiastic consent” and telling people they can’t do things because they’re harmful?? which is not quite the same as saying they can’t because it’s SELF-harm, but. ahhh, policing.

        • Coyote

          Well there’s a lot of that “if it’s not consensual it’s not [kink]” rhetoric I’ve run across (replace “kink” with “BDSM” or “D/s” or topic of the day) and I think… I think people are inclined to use “consensual” as a general synonym for “good and harm-free”?

          Maybe that’s what I’m thinking of, I guess. All this… wanting to use consent as an easy binary for sorting, when consent is one of those things that becomes more and more unwieldy the more I look at it.

          and obvs. the radfems’ take on this would be that all “kink” = self-harm on the sub’s part, And All Your Perceptions Are Wrong (gaslighting much) which is just reductive and doesn’t reach anyone.

          but since I can find frustratingly little competent discourse on this… I do wonder what kind of tools to use to sort out what from what, and what warrants what responses, and what to personally look for and avoid on both sides of the coin.

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