I live to smash patriarchy from the bedroom to the boardroom by teaching men and women the anthropological history and prehistory of human domination. For 99% of our species’ existence we lived in nomadic egalitarian hunting/gathering bands. Without being settled, controlling territory/property and without producing male controlled productive surplus, we shared power equally. However approximately 10,000 years ago, some human cultures began to form permanent settlements, domesticate plants and animals, and stratify into authoritarian classes. Starting around 5,000 years ago, the first fortified settlements were built, we now call these war based settlements “cities”. Civilization is thus the process by which once relatively peaceful and equal societies have either enslaved themselves, animals, and the earth, or have been conquered and enslaved.
Anthropologically I see the BDSM movement as an attempt to bring the underlying trauma of civilization and industrial slavery into creative, healing, social contexts. We “play” with the gender roles and power dynamics that the dominant culture forces us to “work” within. It’s the only way to gain a sense of self-determination and sovereignty in a world that’s out of control.
The movement also reclaims the primal, ancestral need to achieve group states of ritualized ordeal induced altered ecstatic states.
I believe that most fetishes are a cultural immune responses that are reacting to the pathology of religious/agricultural/industrial/corporate domination and exploitation.
From a radical/eco feminist perspective, I advocate conscious active resistance to the patriarchal paradigm. It is my hope that we’ll reject and redesign war based urban environments and economies so that they nurture the earth and the feminine principle. A great resource on the rise of patriarchal dominance, and the conquest of peaceful goddess worshipping cultures is the documentary “Goddess Remembered” http://www.nfb.ca/film/goddess_remembered/
In my experience, the most powerful weapon in the struggle for liberation of the feminine divine, is the application of Tantra. A Tantric renaissance would provide the sexual/social/psychological technologies needed to break the spell of submission to the masters of patriarchy.
The rebalancing of earthly and divine masculine and feminine energies would ultimately relieve the contorted pressure built up in our individual psyches and most fetishes would fade out of existence. I think it’s worth questioning the voluntary perpetuation of certain forms of kink that in effect reproduce the pathology of the dominator culture.
When we return to natural balance, shed industrial slavery, reforest, rebuild soil, and reclaim our birthright to thrive on a peaceful Edenic garden planet by design, we’ll no longer need to “process” through BDSM. We won’t have as much dammed, frustrated, twisted pain trapped in our nervous systems needing to be constantly exorcised.
We can identify and salvage the transcendent primal aspects of body modification, deprivation, bondage, ordeal, shamanic trance, etc. and bury the medieval torture aesthetic.
I feel the same way about punk rock. A lot of punks had sell out ex-hippie parents (like in the movie Pump Up the Volume). They couldn’t understand why we made loud, aggressive, abrasive sounding music. They wanted to create a groovy world of peace and serenity and made a tie-dyed, bongoed, sandaled subculture to strive for their ideals within during the late 60s.
By the late 70s, the punk rock movement, taking the radical politics to a further extreme, created a dark reactive aesthetic that presented the Jungian “shadow” of the collective unconscious. Punk is a cultural scab on the festering wound of the failure of the 60s. It’s as if to say, okay mom and dad you tried peace and love, got your asses kicked by riot police, lost momentum when your leaders were jailed, and after the war, your movements dissolved and you rejoined the suburban rat race…you sold out…so In this generation, it’s “no more mister nice guy! Punk is going to get raw, in your face, dirty, nasty, angry, vulgar, negative, hostile, critical, uncompromising, threatening, violent, destructive, fatalistic, etc.
In the U.S. the punk movement is perhaps the most privileged and apathetic, however throughout Latin America, Europe, Southeast Asia and beyond, the revolutionary punk movement is a serious political force.
It’s debatable whether punk will bring down the system and deliver total liberation to the masses world-wide. But it’s worth engaging in the thought experiment: what if somehow magically, punk did succeed. What if it did fulfill it’s ultimate mission: to create sustainable autonomous anarchy to be managed by small retribalized self-sufficient collaborative communities?
What if the punks won? For how long after the victory would all of that angst exist, would their be a toxic polluted war-torn world to base the militant/skull/bullet-belt reactive aesthetic on? Or would all of those memes just fade out of cultural memory?
That’s why I say that both BDSM and punk are cultural scabs. They reflect the dominator culture, they are a tactical weapon against the dominator culture, and they help us cope and grapple with the predicament of being trapped within the dominator culture. But when the dominator model is once again restored to a partnership model, the scab will flake off, giving way to a scar; a scar hopefully big enough that we’ll never be able to forget it and forever carry the wisdom not to make the same mistakes.
When the scab flakes off, what will our transcendent group sexual rituals look and feel like? What will our once dark and abrasive music sound like? I don’t think we’ll be singing Kum Ba Yah in bell bottoms and bandanas. But we will be singing and drumming around camp fires.
In the deep primitive future, we’ll once again be the highest expression of the local ecology. We’ll be the “most beneficial element in the natural system”, rather than the most destructive. Our sexual energy will flow freely and will be guided by the wisdom of shamanic elders, not dammed and twisted by scriptures.
I ask the BDSM scene, which revels in the perpetuation of dominator themes and memes: what role shall we play in this epic moment of opportunity to recreate authentic ecological partnerships with the land beneath our feet? Can we not apply our biological exuberance, fiery passion, and long list of technical and craft skills towards building eco-villages? If a percentage of time and energy was applied to growing our own produce, raising our own meat, catching our own rainwater, composting our own waste, managing our own wood lots, building our own earthen shelters, etc. would we not distribute the load of frustrated energy that contorts our psyches to the point of chronic sexual perversion?
I’m not judging anyone’s fetish, I’m just doing as Timothy Leary advised and questioning everything. Every phenomenon, physical or cultural has a historical context. There was a time before “x” came into being, and there will be a time after. What is the historical context of these bizarre fetishes that have seized upon us? Did they have a functional adaptive advantageous evolutionary utility for our ancestors living in the wild? I think when you peel back the current historical layer, the answer is absolutely yes. But again the need to “ex-state”, to access non-ordinary states of conscious was met by transcendent rituals, rites of passage, ceremonies, controlled induction of pain and ordeal.
So called primitive cultures are filled with freakish practices, so I’m not saying stop getting turned on by pretending to be a dog. I’m just asking, how can pretending to be a dog be brought out of the dungeon and become a healthy part of the fabric of a sustainable tribal culture? Might it morph into a more traditional form of masked totemistic story-telling dance? (see The Spirit of the Mask: http://youtu.be/DtT82PAHZr8).
Towards the evolution of deep ecologically correct, kink-friendly, shameless, free, neo-tribal cultures!