Chauncey DeVega “Race, Sex and BDSM . . .”

TUE AUG 14, 2012

Race, Sex, and BDSM: On “Plantation Retreats” Where Black People Go to Serve Their White “Masters”

by   chaunceydevega       Follow

plantationretreat1

Those who have loved and dated across the color line have to negotiate the realities of race in our society, and by extension, its impact on their relationships. For many, this is done through explicit conversations. For others, these dialogues come implicitly, through gestures, and taken for granted shared assumptions.

But how many folks actually talk about how race impacts their own sexuality, attraction, physicality, or notions of the erotic?

We live in a society that is structured around many different hierarchies of power, authority, and difference. As Foucault brilliantly observed, Power is not sitting out there in the ether, an abstraction that we just talk about in philosophy classes. Power acts through and upon bodies. Certain people are racialized in American society for example. Their bodies are locations of power–and yes resistance. Likewise, certain types of bodies are marked as “normal,” while others are deemed “different” or “abnormal.”

The “popular” imagination holds many assumptions about particular types of bodies. The black male body is something to be policed, controlled, and feared. It is both envied and despised. The Asian female body is “erotic” and “submissive.” The black female body alternates between being fecund, always available, and out of control, while simultaneously being marked as “masculine,” asexual, and unattractive. Latinas are “hot” and “sexy.” White bodies of a certain type are taken as the baseline for what is considered “beautiful” or “normal.”

Ironically, the bodies of black and brown people which are considered beautiful or attractive by the white gaze are judged as such either by how “different” they are from white norms (the exotic or savage) or how close these racialized bodies–almost like impostors or stand-ins–are to the normalized white body.

The very language we use to discuss race, the physical, and the sexual, is a quotidian example of Power in action. But, how are matters complicated when a significant part of a given person’s sexuality, and sense of the erotic, is centered on playing with the dynamics of dominance and submission?

Consider the following passage from the Colorlines article “Playing with Race”:

Contrary to popular notions, BDSM is not about abuse. It’s consensual and trusting and people refer to it as “play” (as in “I want to play with you”). The point of BDSM is not sexual intercourse. In fact, when Williams recalls her first experience as a masochist seven years ago, she says she met her partner, a white man, at a bar and “fell in love at first sight.” They made their way back to his hotel. “For the first time I felt someone could see who I really was.” And that was someone who found it erotic to be a submissive to her partner.In recent years, Williams has added another element to her repertoire as a masochist. She’s begun to engage in what is called “race play” or “racial play”—that is getting aroused by intentionally using racial epithets like the word “nigger” or racist scenarios like a slave auction.

Race play is being enjoyed in the privacy of bedrooms and publicly at BDSM parties, and it’s far from just black and white. It also includes “playing out” Nazi interrogations of Jews or Latino-on-black racism, and the players can be of any racial background and paired up in a number of ways (including a black man calling his black girlfriend a “nigger bitch”).

White master seeking black slave, however, seems the more popular of the combinations.

I could not engage is such types of role-playing. My personal politics would not allow it; my libido would not respond.That is my choice. I do not deny others their pleasure.

raceplay3However, as someone interested in the relationship between race, politics, and racial ideologies, I am fascinated by how individuals negotiate white supremacy and Power.

Are people like Williams or Mollena more “evolved” and “progressive” than those of us who cannot decouple the realities and burdens of race from their bodies and psyches in the present? Alternatively, could this deep sense of both owning and living in a racialized body, be turned into a location for pleasure and catharsis:

Vi Johnson, the black matriarch of BDSM, has presented on race play at kinky conferences and she believes the appeal is different for each person. “When you’re being sexually stimulated, you’re not thinking that what’s stimulating you is a racist image, ” she says. “You’re just getting turned on.”So, for some, she says, race play is about playing with authority and for others, it might be humiliation.

Well-known sexuality and SM educator Midori, who is Japanese and German, often presents her theory that humiliation in BDSM is linked to self-esteem. Take the woman who likes it when her boyfriend calls her a “slut,” Midori says. Perhaps the woman internalized the idea that “good girls don’t,” but she enjoys her sexuality. Because the boyfriend sees her in all her complexity, Midori says, when he calls her a slut, “he is freeing her of the social expectations of having to be modest.”

That’s different than having some stranger (and jerk) calling you a slut. The stranger doesn’t see the full woman. It’s similar with race play, Midori says. By focusing, for example, on a black man’s body, while he’s bound as a slave, she’s bolstering his own perception of himself as strong and powerful…

Her workshop demonstrations have included full auction scenes mimicking those of the Old South. In them, she is the plantation mistress inspecting a black man for “purchase.” He’s in shackles and “I slap him on his face and push him down on the ground, make him lick my shoes,” she says, emphasizing that she only does the demonstration after the “psychological” talk.

In the interest of transparency, I am a sex positive person (at least according to the survey onyourmorals.org). In many ways, I am also a bit of a libertine and a hedonist who is comfortable in both exclusive and open relationships. I also have certain predilections and tastes that more “vanilla” folks could find “kinky” or “different.” Ultimately, I am just myself, and do not know how to pretend to be anyone else.I am also full of contradictions and complications as sexuality and the erotic are not neatly bounded constructs (for example, I do not like watching interracial porn where white men have aggressive sex with black women as chattel slavery looms too large in my mind; however, I have no problems watching black men have aggressive sex with white women). I have also dated many women from a range of racial backgrounds: I love women; I love variety.

I share those details not to titillate; rather, because while I am rendering a judgement of sorts, I would not want to sound “judgmental.” The difference is a subtle, but nonetheless, an important one.

One of the questions I will be asking Viola Johnson from the Carter Johnson Leather Librarywhen I interview her in the next few weeks (fingers crossed) is how do we separate more “healthy” types of race play from those encounters that are rooted in disdain for the Other and white supremacy. Are these just inter-personal contracts or do these types of sexual relationships gain power (and are made erotic) precisely because of how they signal to larger societal taboos?

If the website Fetlife is any indication, there is apparently a not insubstantial number ofpeople who engage in sexual roleplaying and BDSM using the motif of chattel slavery in the antebellum South. A cursory review of the member profiles suggests that many of these people are white supremacists. This is apparently not a deterrent to the black men and women who want to “serve” these white masters.

plantation2Here a white “slave owning” master offers some insight on race play and “plantation retreats”:

My major kink-interest is in chattel slave-ownership in today’s world but following the historical models of 8,000 years of historical slave-ownership tradition (from Greek-Roman through modern day)…along with everything that might relate to it (which sometimes can go pretty far into the realm of BDSM activities, depending on the partner). I’m very knowlegable in the field of historical slavery.Some of my other non-kink interests include history and philosophy, classic cars, music, science, singing and writing lyrics, architecture, comparative culture, language, reading and counseling..

I get a lot of questions about “Plantation Retreat”…so here are some basic facts:

My goal in creating and hosting Plantation Retreat is to provide a safe and welcoming, private place (and opportunity) for White Masters and plantation slaves/niggers to meet and explore their mutual fantasies. I get a lot of questions and answer many individual questions. To simplify things…here is some general basic information:

The gathering lasts for up to 2 weeks this year, with the main gathering around the 4th of July…folks can stay as long or as short a time as they want (some stay even longer). Masters can stay at the compound here or in a hotel if they want to (as can any personal slaves that they bring with them or any other slave that is ordered to do so).

Slaves arriving on their own stay here and are considered (and protected) as property of the plantation or my personal property.

Slaves sign up for a specific length of service. Slaves can specify what their limits are or that they will serve in any way the Master/guests desire. Sex is not required, but depends on individual choice (as do other activities). Most Masters desire to use slaves sexually in addition to normal domestic services. Some slaves are used only for hard labor. A slave’s assignments and duties are based on its experience and ability-level (some require whipping or punishment). Masters have their own king or queen bed (up to 5 available); slaves sleep where they are told to sleep (unless they are ordered into a Master’s bed and allowed to sleep there). Normally a slave sleeps at the foot of a Master’s bed, but some can be chained or caged elsewhere.

The minimum requirement for slaves is that they be obedient and respectful of all Masters and work to give the Masters and enjoyable time. This can be anything from preparing and serving drinks and meals, doing housework or yard work, to providing sexual relief on demand, to hard labor in the compound (depending on the slave’s previously-stated limitations). Slaves should expect Masters to be totally comfortable and free in using humiliating or degrading racist speech in referring to or speaking to mud-slaves. It’s not all punishment and misery for slaves…there is plenty of time for camaraderie and playful fun also. Some slaves even form a brotherly bond with the other slaves that serve with them. Masters also form lasting bonds and friendships based on their mutual interests and sharing slaves.

It’s just a small friendly gathering of White Masters at my house/compound….being served by mud-slaves as might have been in a modern version of slave-days. one might call it a situation of consensual non-consent/slavery. Slaves can set their limits and the time they will be in service as slaves in advance…. and also what they expect to learn and experience from the experience. The more that a slave lets me know about itself in advance, the better I can guide its growth from the experience.

Backstage racism mates with BDSM, the eroticization of the black body, and finds a place online through a variant of cyber-racism. Amazing. We do in fact live in interesting times.White supremacy is a mental illness. Western (and global) society is sick with it. All of us, across the color line, have been impacted by white supremacy and white racism. But who are we to judge how adults in a consensual relationship decide to work through its pain and ugliness?

As is per my tradition, here are some concluding questions.

Have any of you engaged in race play? For those of you in inter-racial relationships, how do you negotiate these bigger questions of race and the erotic? If our kinks and sexual predilections are in some way a function of life experience, trauma, early childhood experiences, etc. what happened in the life of a black person who is willing to play a slave for the pleasures of white racists?

WHO IS CHAUNCEY DEVEGA ?

Chauncey Devega is an OUR COMMON GROUND Voice . . . of himself, he offers

“I am the editor and founder of We Are Respectable Negroes.
I am also a race man in progress, Black pragmatist, ghetto nerd, cultural critic and essayist.
I have been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Joshua Holland’s Alternet Radio Hour, the Thom Hartmann radio show, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground.My essays have been featured by Salon, Alternet, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos.

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WHERE I ENTER : When Being A “Good Ally” Goes Wrong

WHERE I ENTER

When Being A “Good Ally” Goes Wrong

I’ve noticed many people policing the reactions of (primarily) POC to the George Zimmerman verdict under the guise of “don’t offend the allies”. This is problematic on several levels.

I want to start out by saying that I, personally, don’t agree with the idea of an “ally” that we, as a society, have seem to construct. You shouldn’t get special recognition or acknowledgement for meeting the basic minimum requirements of being a decent human being by treating people who are different from you with equality and respect; that should be a given. Another thing I’ve noticed is that people are more concerned with being the best ally than they are with the concerns/oppression of the marginalized group(s) that they’re allying with. When the focus becomes about you and your feelings instead of the people facing discrimination, you’re being a really shitty ally.

I am a straight, cisgender woman. It would be the height of heterosexual and cissexual privilege (not to mention just damn rude) for me to start talking about how homophobia and transphobia hurts my feelings. I am not now, nor have I ever been, directly impacted by homophobia and/or transphobia. I have never been denied access to a job or housing solely due to my sexual orientation or gender expression. I can be denied access to these things based on my race and/or gender, but I also have legal recourse available to me to rectify the situation if that were to occur. LGBTQ people do not have the same recourse. 29 states have no laws protecting LGBTQ and gender non-conforming people fromemployment or housing discrimination. 52% of LGBTQ people live in these states. My job is to support LGBTQ groups/organizations/individuals advocating for equality and to call out homophobic and cissexist behavior when I see it. It is not my place to enter LGBTQ spaces and make the conversation about me and my feelings.

The first rule of being a good ally is that it’s not about you. Your feelings are irrelevant. If you insist on framing the conversation around your feelings and how you’re being excluded, then you were never a real ally in the first place. Marginalized groups are not required to invite non-marginalized people into their safe spaces. If you are invited, it is a privilege and should be treated as such. You should not take center stage, nor should you attempt to speak for members of the group. Once again, these issues don’t directly impact you.

I’m not trying to come across as the perfect ally to other marginalized groups. Do I screw up sometimes? Yes. We ALL do. @FeministGriot had said that being an ally is a process, and I couldn’t agree more. No matter how hard you try and how sincere you are, you’re going to screw up eventually and it’s not the end of the world. Now, this isn’t to minimize or excuse any transgression made in the past or in the future; it’s merely to say that we’re human and no one is perfect. What is important is your reaction and your behavior moving forward. If someone from a marginalized group calls you out on your privilege, one of the worst things you can do is to get defensive. What you need to do is sit back, listen, and reflect on what you did and how that came across. It doesn’t matter what your intent was, what matters is how it was perceived and received. Don’t forget: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Sometimes the best thing an ally can do is just sit back so that marginalized people can lead.

For an example of good ally work go to wearenottrayvonmartin.tumblr.com

An Open Letter to Juror B-37 in the Zimmerman Trial

An Open Letter to Juror B-37 in the Zimmerman Trial
July 16, 2013

Court Cases, Criminal Justice, News Media, Reality TV, Social Media

Dear Juror B-37,

I saw your interview with Anderson Cooper on AC360 and I want to thank you for the time you took away from your family to serve in the public process as a juror.

JurorB37

That is the nicest thing I can say to you because I find you to be a disgusting human being.

It’s obvious that you never once considered Trayvon’s point of view and did not then, or now, see him as a full human being, worthy of the same rights to which all Americans are entitled and the Human Rights declared by the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

Did you even bother to listen to the case?

You took George Zimmerman’s story to be truthful and, yet, you say he “went too far” and that you were certain he had some “exaggerations” and “inconsistencies.” Gee, what do you think he could have exaggerated about? Was it the head bashing, perhaps? The fear for his life? The first punch? Everything happening at the T?

You claim that you didn’t understand the law (and, btw, “went too far” = Manslaughter, bare minimum) but you had plenty of time to ask for clarification; and the only question presented to the judge about the law was Manslaughter. According to you, you were confused about everything. Why not more questions?

You claim that Rachel Jeantel wasn’t so credible to you and, yet, you were certain that Trayvon said “creepy ass cracka.” So, which is it, Disgusting Juror? You can believe a phrase that has absolutely zero proof of existence but you can’t believe that Trayvon was NOT the initial aggressor and did NOT throw “the first punch,” considering Rachel told you she heard the verbal confrontation and the “bump” on Trayvon?!!

And, yet, you feel “sorry” for Rachel Jeantel because she was so “uneducated” and because of her speech? Well, let me tell you something: Rachel Jeantel does not need nor want your “sympathy.” What she wanted was justice for her friend and you have ensured that the justice George Zimmerman deserves has now been delayed. Rachel Jeantel is smarter than you, probably speaks more languages than you, is more street-smart than you; and as soon as she gets her surgery, she will be far more eloquent than you think you are, Disgusting Juror!

You think it would be okay for George Zimmerman to be your Neighborhood Watchman NOW and that he has “learned his lesson?” Well, good. I hope you have a Neighborhood Watchman EXACTLY like George Zimmerman. Then, you can see what your own hands have wrought.

HLNTV.com
HLNTV.com
I can’t wait for you to learn that the audio experts EXCLUDED George Zimmerman from being the one screaming. It wasn’t him, you twit. But just like the Sanford Police Department, you gave him the Presumption of Innocence he doesn’t deserve. I would love to see your face when you learn that “Georgie” threw a woman across the room, called his ex-fiance a “hoe,” had a restraining order put on him from his ex-fiance’ and the “meek” man who could not fight assaulted an undercover police officer even AFTER he identified himself, to which “Georgie” replied, “I don’t care WHO you are!” and assaulted him.

You believed the wrong person. You set free the wrong person. YOU are a wrong person.

I don’t care about the tears you had after you gave the verdict to the bailiff. You cried because you knew, deep down inside, you appealed to white supremacy / racism more than anything else. Certainly, there was some doubt in this case but all REASONABLE doubt is removed once you realize that George Zimmerman is a lying piece of murderous scum trash and YOU set him free before even deliberating with the other jurors and even after.

You are a disgusting human being. And I find your desire to write a book after you set a child murderer free to be disgusting and that’s why I repeat the insult. You are a racist and could never think about what Trayvon Martin might have been thinking or feeling. Perhaps you need to read my Closing Argument.

You talked about how sorry you felt for George Zimmerman’s life, through your tears. Anderson Cooper had to collect himself when he realized you were only crying for “Georgie” and asked, “Do you feel sorry for Trayvon?,” to which you replied, “I feel sorry for both.”

See how you couldn’t even condescend to feel for Trayvon, alone, not even for a moment?

That’s how we know you’re a disgusting human being.

I’m glad you said you will never serve on another jury. Please don’t. There is enough injustice in this world.

Sincerely,

Disgusted by You

Justice for Trayvon

Update: Due to the excellent diligence of @MoreAndAgain on Twitter, Disgusting Being Juror B-37 was dropped by her literary agent. After the public statement was issued, reportedly Juror B-37 decided she wasn’t going to write a book anymore and provided the following statement:

JurorB37 Book Deal

Shorter Juror B-37: I had NO IDEA how many people would hate me following my self-serving interview with Anderson, especially since I was just testing out the waters to see who’d buy my book. I had NO IDEA @MoreAndAgain would ensure my ass was handed to me and my Literary Agent would drop me like, well, like George Zimmerman dropped Trayvon to the ground without a care in the world for his life or humanity, with his depraved mind.

We already know you enjoy reveling in lies, Juror B-37, and we also now know that your attorney husband is friends with Mark O’Mara. I wondered why that other disgusting being, Frank Taaffe, was so confident about the verdict and knew certain votes and now I’m clear, you were the source.

We’re not surprised.

Dr. Kimberly Ellis ( Dr. Goddess)

Former Producer, OUR COMMON GROUNG

Scholar. Artist. Activist. Trial Watcher and Analyst. View all posts by SocialCourtTV →