February 20, 2015

Christian Grey: The Disneyland Dom

By Marc Esadrian

Anyone familiar with my original thoughts on 50 Shades of Grey will likely not find this supplemental rant much of a surprise, but I suppose it’s necessary, being who I am, to say something. After all, it would be irresponsible of me to avoid commentary on a subject that hits so close to home (or as close as it can, at least) on the silver screen. So, begrudgingly, I dragged myself to the theater to see the movie adaptation directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, starring Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey and Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele.

I laughed, I winced, and shook my head in mild annoyance over the neutered and underwhelming spectacle before me. When the movie ended, I wondered how many people in the theater found it to be little more than a flat, safe, sterile, PG-13-like buzz kill. Afterward, I put my thoughts to keyboard, struggling with what I should title this commentary. 50 Shades of Fail? Not-a-True-Dominant: The Movie? Or how about Rich and Kinky Boy-Faced Beta Male Tries to Seduce a Smug, Temperamental Virgin? It was quite a conflict.

I finally settled on Christian Grey: The Disneyland Dom, for I think that among the movie’s many flawed premises, the one that irks me the most is the inadvertent message that women might be interested in male domination…permitting you’re a hot Armani-suited billionaire. While I’m happy to see the subject of consensual female submission going mainstream, I feel the idea of it, as conceived in this tale, is tied too closely to the mystique of wealth and bling. If we strip away Christian Grey’s expensive raiment, his luxuriant urban address, his stable of exotic sports cars, his private helicopter, and above all, his top notch “red room” that would make any professional dominatrix drool, what remains? Beyond image, where in this film is Christian Grey really dominant at all, aside from the entitlements afforded him through money? We see him chasing after Anastasia Steele, a woman who, despite her waking desires, repeatedly denies him (a common romantic cliché). In the wake of her rejections and sarcastic remarks, he chases her like a cross between a stalker, a wounded puppy, and a well dressed front-door salesman. And yet he dramatically avoids her at all the wrong moments. In many ways, this man acted like der uber jerken, getting up and abandoning her when he should have enriched their bond, shutting her out when sharing would have maximized intimacy, and wallowing in his own self-pity over a shiny piano while she stands half naked, a foot away. Which brings me to my next peeve.

Second in my list of grievances about the film (but just barely so) is the absolutely dysfunctional portrayal of male dominance we are subjected to, over and over. I understand that a story needs a conflict and that stories serve more as entertainment than enlightenment, but as I originally lamented regarding E. L. James’ trilogy, 50 Shades the movie had an opportunity to present the D in D/s in a more positive light—to show the world that you don’t have to be an emotionally (and psychically) scarred person to partake in these things. We are left, especially at the gloomy end of the first film, not only assuming that Christian’s interest in D/s directly and unequivocally stems from his dysfunction and romantic ineptness, but also feeling like that man is a bit of a wimp and pushover.

Segue to peeve three: Sassy Steele’s domineering and passive-aggressive vibe is tiresomely obvious throughout the film. So obvious, in fact, that no self-respecting dominant male I know of (real dominant men, mind you) would put up with her sneers, snide remarks, eye rolling, and condescending jabs. It’s here where I see the usual girl power scripting of Hollywood, likely uncomfortable with the subject matter to begin with, tinkering more than a little with her character to make her “hipper” and more palatable to the public’s genteel standards. Anatasia’s character was a little playful and opinionated in the books, though she was also naive and subdued. The movie made her much more bold and sarcastic, bordering on hostile, but I certainly didn’t find myself surprised in the least about that. I honestly don’t think anyone churning out films from major studios today is capable of presenting a woman as anything but strong and sassy (and I’ll add domineering, while I’m at it).

This presents a problem with the portrayal of submission for the D/s-illiterate yet nonetheless intrigued female viewers. Ana is not just a brat or a typical SAM (Smart Assed Masochist): she is disrespectful, dramatic, passive-aggressive, and tries her best to be as unimpressed as possible with her seducer throughout the film. Granted, Ana is what they call “vanilla” in BDSM terms. With that in mind, many of her lame reactions to lame dominance were plausible (even if her twenties-ish virginity isn’t). Still, her contentiousness doesn’t set a very good example at all for impressionable women who are on the cusp of taking marginal interest in this way of life. Women drawn in from the 50 Shades Effect who make the mistake of approaching authentically dominant men as their personal Christian Greys (it has already happened to me, and more than once, I’m sad to report) will likely have a very rude awakening when the face of mommy porn meets the concrete of reality.

But the movie isn’t all bad. For BDSM 101, the film did well with respect to consent, negotiation, and safe words. The War and Peace sized contract scene conveyed, at least, the detailed consent of kinky play partners. It took great pains, in fact, to inform the novice yet curious public that these interactions are based upon consent. Zooming out to see the big picture, the 50 Shades Effect helped to bring BDSM—and, to some degree, D/s—into mainstream discussion. This helps to “normalize” D/s a little more in our culture and foster an environment where more men and women can at least consider the idea of dominance and submission as something other than shameful and pathological interactions between deviant adults.

But normalizing D/s for the general public’s consumption might only swap out the old canards with new ones. It remains to be seen what effect E. L. James’ trendy story-made-movie will have on mainstream views regarding actual dominance and submission. Aside of being annoyed at how much of a cheesy cartoon D/s may now be in the eyes of some, my real concern is that instead of accepting the deeper and wider practices of our world, there will be a polarization between what’s deemed good and bad D/s, where a gamut of consumable acts and ideas are sanctioned and others remain stigmatized. In other words, some progress toward wider acceptance, but otherwise business as usual.

 


July 23, 2013

Why I Love Men

By Nina E.

Despite all of the advantages that contemporary women have, despite all of their advances, despite their achievements and the respect they have rightly earned for them, many seem strangely dissatisfied with the romantic or mate potential of the men that surround them. Ironic, as increasingly more men are adapting to the new egalitarian roles of the sexes: playing by women’s rules in the office, helping out in the home and with children, and abiding by the increasing number of rules and regulations that women in charge think essential. Most men quietly bear the scathing and sometimes blatantly dishonest media stereotypes of themselves as clueless, doltish, thick-headed animals in need of training and, often without complaint, accept the modern feminine mythos that women are spiritually, emotionally, and mentally superior to their sex in all ways. Other men, still a minority, choose quietly to opt out and not play by female rules which cause them to deny their true selves. After being disenfranchised by a vagina-positive society they are now self-disenfranchising as a response: they don’t go to college, they don’t enter the increasingly feminized workplace, and they are, in rising numbers, refusing to marry or even engage in long-term romantic relationships. Young women, in fact, are becoming increasingly resigned to the “hookup” (temporary fuckbuddy) culture and even adopting it as their own.

Once the heady draught of freedom and wide-open opportunities has worn off, once the busy intensity of striving for success and competing in one’s early adult years has passed and a woman finds herself well-established in her career or other endeavors, she, more and more frequently, looks around at the available men and feels a bleak, sinking feeling in her stomach. The members of the mating pool she finds herself in just don’t turn her on. Assuming some of these males meet the modern woman’s illogically high achievement/professional standards for a man (no matter how successful women are—and the converse: how unsuccessful men are in a female-run society—the majority of women still want to “marry up” into a more privileged class), the men seem emotionally lacking. Boring. Unexciting. Toadies. Yes Men. Passive. Weak. Overly Cooperative. Feminized. Repressed. Office Boys. Factotums. Metrosexuals. Milquetoasts. Unvirile. Manginas. These are some of the words that go through a dismayed woman’s mind when it finally turns to love, marriage, and family and she starts to survey that unfamiliar and surprisingly bleak landscape, looking for something out there, someONE out there with potential. The old adage, “A good man is hard to find,” has taken on a special meaning in the minds and hearts of many contemporary women.

The core truth being experienced in these “wonderful, exciting times” by thousands of successful, modern women is that they emotionally (and, some would say, illogically) crave a “real man,” someone they can look up to and respect, someone with “traditional” male traits, someone their bodies and hearts, despite the mental overlay of feminist propaganda, tell them is an “appropriate” mate. Sadly, this man is almost nowhere to be found—particularly in the places such women are looking. The boring, repressed, politically correct behavior and roles we’ve forced on most males in developed countries just do not stir our loins. He’s a breeze to work with (or to “organize,” if you happen to be married to him), he may be extremely skilled at pleasing in bed, but he just doesn’t inspire the sort of passion, intensity and deep, exciting, committed romance that most women crave in a relationship with a man.

Why is that? There are many reasons as this is a complex issue, but the primary reason is simple: we (members of rich, developed societies) simply do not allow men to be themselves these days and somewhere deep inside both men and women know this: both sexes recognize this social-political lie. What is a man like when he is most himself? That is what this editorial will explore, in the hopes that it will provide a compass for women who feel lost at sea when it comes to love, relationships, and romance.

There are certain personality features and inclinations that most men are born with and that naturally emerge as he grows, if not artificially stifled. Some of these traits are purposefully repressed by parents and teachers as boys transform into men. Others have little place to express themselves in today’s world and so are ignored. It’s a sad fact of life that up until as recently as 40 years ago, the majority of men used to express these traits naturally, exuberantly, and, dare I say, aggressively. But male aggression is a big-no-no these days, along with many of the other traits I am about to discuss. Nevertheless, they are what make men “men,” and, when you look at the secret fantasy lives of many women or examine the “bedside books” they read when nobody is around, you’ll find they abound with romantic male characters that embody these basic male traits, despite their political incorrectness. Sadly, the only place real men are allowed to exist in most women’s mental landscapes is in this lets-pretend world of fantasy, wishes, and idealistic dreams, a landscape built by thinly-disguised BDSM dreams and male-dominance romance novels. We cannot accept the genuine article when we encounter him because he doesn’t follow the neat, orderly, and overly safe feminine rules for behavior. No matter how much our deeper selves crave his guidance and energizing touch, that latter fact really pisses us off. He is a real man: he is himself and there is nothing a rules-bound overly feminized society hates more than someone who won’t play by “their rules.”

Of course there are evil men (and evil women, too). But I’m going to speak below of the very best traits that men can possess and that the majority of good men will express, if given the freedom to do so.

 

Their Minds

What woman who has been around men much has failed to notice that they think differently than us? I’m not talking about differences in interests or focus, I’m talking about the thought processes themselves. Male brains, at their best, travel down logical, clean, brightly-lit paths. They take few side-trips down the murky emotional byways that constantly waylay female minds and, as a result, the conclusions men quickly arrive at are often sane, coherent, and objective. Listening to a man reason and then come up with simple and often elegant conclusions feels like diving into a fresh pool of cool, clear water. Men’s minds get quickly to the point. They do so often by ignoring the emotional overtones of an issue. While this is sometimes confused with a lack of subtlety, I see it more as a clean, strong focus on the point itself, rather than how it makes one feel.

I’ve tried to imitate this style of thinking, but even at my best I have a tendency, present in many female minds, to overcomplicate issues and worry about things that have not happened. This causes me to find convoluted solutions to problems that, while they try to avoid or prevent possible contingencies, do so by jumping through far too many hoops. They are not optimal solutions because they waste energy and resources getting around imagined “bad stuff that might happen.” Most men do not have this conservative, risk-avoidance instinct and, as a result, their solutions are clearer, more elegant, and, in my experience, far more likely to work than my own. They are able to see what is important about a situation because they are less distracted by the trivial. They see the forest, the big picture, not the trees. Seeing the trees has its place, mind you, but not when making sweeping decisions or when facing a serious crisis. At those times you need to see the whole picture, not the tiny aspects of it that many a female mind will hover around and get lost in contemplating.

Most men seem quite facile at thinking spatially, abstractly, and tactically. These are traits I (and many women I know) have admitted are not our best. I get easily lost, for example. I have trouble with even simple math, and I suck at strategy war games. I greatly admire the average man’s ability to think well in these practical, and, at one time, essential-to-survival areas.

 

Their Emotional Sets

One of the reasons I believe men think more clearly than women is because they are not besieged by tidal waves of emotion that rock their mental boats and steer them off course. While I enjoy the company of sincere, good-hearted women, I enjoy even more being around men because they seem immune to the emotional tsunamis that plague even the best female minds. Men are generally positive and upbeat, and, if not overly influenced by female-dominated online culture, far less snide and snarky than the average woman. Overall, men seem to give women a lot more credit than they deserve. When the typical modern woman looks at a man she thinks, “Guilty until proven innocent!” When the typical modern man looks at a woman, he feels she is innocent or good until proven guilty. This noble and charitable attitude is one that would improve many woman if they were to practice it. It is the unsuspicious and magnanimous attitude of someone well-born, someone with manners who has been taught to respect all individuals unless they’ve clearly demonstrated that they are unworthy of it. The word for this simple quality that so many men naturally possess is “nobility.”

Part of a man’s positive emotional force comes from the ways in which he thinks: he does not start out overcomplicating matters by worrying about “what-if” scenarios. If he wants to do something, he simply does it. If it’s something he’s never done before, he doesn’t spend hours researching it and figuring out from others the best route to take: he just plunges right in. This lack of overcomplication and worry is incredibly refreshing to be around and helps ground me when I get lost in the paralyzing fantasy clouds of “what if THIS happened?” Men live their lives by that old Nike slogan: they Just Do It. It’s a marvelously simple and free way to live.

Overall, men seem more patient, accepting, and forgiving than women. They certainly put up with far more emotional games and subterfuges from us than we are willing to accept from them! Men can get very angry when they are roused, but, at the same time, most men have a slow fuse. Not only do they not fly instantly off the handle but they seem willing to put up with a huge about of female BS before they finally decide they’ve had enough. Even the firm, dominant men that I associate with do this. You don’t, for example, see most men viciously and vindictively trashing a woman’s reputation online simply because she was late once for a date.

Men are far less prone to hysteria and “losing it” in emergencies. Should I find myself in a terrible crisis, I would be greatly relieved if a man were there to help plan the best course of action. Far too often women in a state of crisis succumb to panic or irrationally focus on trivialities that have little bearing on the overall problem.

Men, at their best, are wonderfully direct and transparent: what you see is what you get. I greatly admire a man’s natural, bright honesty and directness and strive hard to act the same. Men, when compared to women, have a strong sense of fairness, justice, and balance. They don’t hold grudges because someone used the “wrong” word or wore the same outfit that they are wearing. They lack the pettiness that all too often plagues the female heart and causes her to place deep import on irrelevant events, magnify imagined slights, and even delight in causing discomfort to others.

 

Their Powers of Creation

When something breaks in the house, who does the average woman turn to? A man, usually. Throughout history (and, I suspect, prehistory) men have been the primary builders, makers, fixers, and general creators in this world. Most lasting, most “great” creative works of art or music, books, theories, architectural marvels, and so on have a male mind behind them. There is a creative force in men that is at the heart of their virility, their maleness, and when they harness it to a worthwhile project or vision, they often come close to making miracles happen. Feminist “scientific” literature is full of theories about why most great creative works were done by men. This impolite little fact of life makes them furious. (Because we all know women are supposed to be better than men in everything, right?) But the fact of the matter is, the average man is better at making things, better at fixing things that get broken, better at conceiving of paradigm-shifting ideas that profoundly change the ways we think about the world, and, overall, far more creative than the average woman.

Perhaps some of this is due to a man’s ability to make sense out of spatial information, his often superior eye-hand coordination, or the fact that the skills men exercised throughout history encouraged and supported the development of creative thinking. Whatever it is, I deeply admire men for their ability to envision something new that has never been seen or heard before and then create it. Or perhaps they envision it as they create it? However it’s done, it’s extremely impressive and often makes a profound difference in the ways we all live. When I drive a car instead of walking to work or read a cell phone text instead of waiting days or weeks for a letter or ride in an elevator instead of climbing the stairs, I am quite aware that I wouldn’t have such useful conveniences if a male mind hadn’t conceived of and then solved the complex problems around building them. I rejoice in and am deeply grateful for men’s immense creativity and practical genius.

 

Their Fighting Spirits

I love and deeply admire male bravery. Men constantly take risks in life, they leap in when things are unsure, they are willing and able to fight for what’s important. They don’t constantly try to avoid danger like the average risk-aversive woman; instead, they will respond quickly and decisively in times of crisis. The typical man is far more likely than a woman to face danger with aggression and try to overcome it. Men value the development of their physical skills and thrive in competitive environments. Quite clearly, many of the recreational sports most enjoyed by men employ lightly disguised versions of battle practices. Men enjoy excelling physically: being faster, stronger, more agile, more stealthy than the other guy. They enjoy physical action immensely, even simulated physical action, and seem to thrive on danger and risk—things most women dislike and do not seek out.

If you visit Youtube.com and watch some guy’s game video where he’s running from monsters who are everywhere and dying constantly in horrible ways he’s usually chortling with intense glee. As a woman watching these scenarios I think, “Is he out of his mind? What is fun about this extremely stressful situation?” I don’t get it but I’m very glad men are naturally physically aggressive and even enjoy it, as I am not. I’d rather hide in a closet from the monsters! Seriously, I feel safe and protected when in the company of a man. I know his fighting skills are better than my own and that if we did face a crisis he would be able to direct the best course of action to take in response to it. On my own, I’d be likely to panic or freeze up, and then perhaps face, as I do over and over in video games, a needless death due to my unwillingness to take a risk and engage in a stressful, fast-paced confrontation.

 

Their Natural Abilities to Lead

All of the traits described above make a man into a natural and logical leader. A man’s objectivity and ability to think clearly and strategically without the confusing haze of emotion or fantasy; his action-oriented, risk-taking personality; his creativity and trailblazing abilities; his natural aggressiveness; and his overall largeness of spirit makes him an ideal person to follow. Unlike the current cultural myths, many men, if allowed to be themselves, will rise to greatness, will take charge of situations and make rational, fair decisions that result in more people being helped than harmed. They are natural leaders. Men are protective and possessive, as well, toward those in their charge. If he is allowed to develop naturally and with strong male role models, it is second nature for a man to take good care of those he leads and cares for. When needed, they don’t operate on automatic or “by the rules”: they are flexible and strategic risk-takers. Finally, men have an extremely valuable trait that all good leaders need: they are persistent. They do not give up easily, at the first or even the tenth frustration. They keep looking for a solution, a way through, a way to fix things. For all of these reasons, I find it deeply disturbing that men’s natural leadership talents are so often these days ignored, seen as unimportant, or even ridiculed in favor of the overly-detailed, inflexible, monotonous, fastidious rules-following corporate mentality that far too many women today identify with leadership.

 

Postscript

To anticipate a question that may be in the minds of some as they finish this piece, yes, of course, women have good qualities too. Whoever said they didn’t? In fact, these good qualities are talked about everywhere—absolutely everywhere. Every place you go, everything you read in this “girls rule-boys drool” society is immensely female-positive, often at the expense of men who are contrasted with the “greatness” of women as bumbling but trainable  fools at best; insane and violent criminals at worst. But where is the goodness, the greatness that is man, talked about? The honest answer is: almost nowhere these days. I’m simply trying to redress that immense imbalance with a few reminders of why we are all not lesbians, why so many of us women still love and even adore the  delightfully-different-from-us man in our lives…provided we can find one.

 


February 12, 2012

Cynicism

By Marc Esadrian

If one happens to frequent online social networks all about BDSM in mind, a few patterns may be seen eventually—some of them positive and some of them, well, not so positive. Challenging mainstream ignorance about sexuality has always been a strong suit of the BDSM crowd. I say crowd rather than lifestyle because BDSM, as it is now, has metastasized into something so large and inclusive that it’s impossible to speak of it with any particularity.

One thing the group has managed to do with its hyper-inclusiveness is foster an environment where words like “master” or “slave” mean little more than anything you want them to mean. Indeed, when perusing any board centered around these concepts, you’ll read such pearls of wisdom as “the difference between a submissive and slave are the letters,” or “we all know this isn’t real slavery,” or (my personal favorite) “there’s no such thing as truth in master-slave—it’s all up to the people involved to decide what the words mean.”

In a world teeming with cliques of milquetoast “masters” and sycophant “slaves” all conspiring to further a culture rife with somewhat lazy thinking, it’s easy to get a little cynical about the vision you hold dear to your heart, a vision where a woman may serve wholly and completely, in purity, love, and sacrifice, and a man may enthusiastically enforce the servitude and worship of his woman (or women) without any spiders in the milk, so to speak. It’s easy to become jaded by the illusions one sees in a plastic online world of paper lords and narcissistic “kajiras.” In places like Fetlife, for instance, we see these types all the time, stirring the pot, flaunting their self-obsession, ignorance, and disdain. And then there are, of course, the horror stories we hear of the mirages people have fallen prey to. We hear about the fakers and takers and about the disappointments and betrayals of trust. We hear, inevitably, about the blind leading the blind in a nefarious garden of fantasy, half-truths and outright lies. Navigating this underworld of ours is challenging, to say the very least, so challenging it sometimes feels like an exercise in futility.

What conspires to poison the ecosytem even more is the cynicism that naturally arises with all of this, and nowhere is the cost of this cynicism more toxic than in those who yearn to find a master or consensual slave who is the real deal. At some point, one may decide enough is enough and be done with the circus of commercialization and window dressing that gambols around these sincere human drives—drives that aren’t half as prolific as we would be led to believe in the fetish collective. The abhorrence of all this kinky silliness and smugness masquerading as something other than it really is becomes quite understandable, but I think we all have to be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as they say, when combing humanity for those rare beings we desire.

Humbled Females isn’t only about master and slave, but those who are inclined to pursue such a way of life would do well to reflect upon the simple fact that relationships of such extremes have never been the majority of even the select group of alternative lifestyle folk who find it easy to toss such words around. Men with enough self-actualization, dominance, caring, and leadership ability to be masters are very rare individuals and women suited to serve as consensual slaves are perhaps just as rare. In short, we have to do a reality check about the candy-coated online world of so-called power exchange. We should remember that supply and demand for the deeper shades of control and surrender, in reality, is often within the minority and nowhere near clustered around the casual mean.

It may be tempting to write everyone off in this little universe of ours as players or grudgingly conclude that master-slave is really about nothing more than creative sex for couples and deviant paramours. At times, it may seem affectation and sensual frivolity is all there is to it, but don’t write us all off as nothing but that. Some of us, believe it or not, are the real deal and take leadership and responsibility to another level. We may not be easy to find, but we’re out there, scattered far and wide amid the blandlands.