- We mourn with all victims of sexual abuse -
During the 2016 New Year celebrations hundreds of woman in Cologne and other cities in Germany, got introduced to a new form of public humiliation and sexual harassment of women: ‘taharrush gamea’ and it is a form of sexual amusement for men.
‘Taharrush gamea’ forms a big problem in several Middle Eastern societies, like Egypt. Similar to other forms of group rape in societies where a culture of rape, patriarchal structures, anti-feminist thought and sexist males leads to customs that do not respect the equality of females, their rights to sexual self-expression and bodily integrity.
Besides that ‘taharrush gamea’ is problematic, because it thrives on sexual and criminal acts that are non-consensual, it is also an expression of the above mentioned underlying thinking patterns that can be seen as patriarchal, macho and possessive. But as some of those patterns also form the spice in consensual BDSM, so do we have reason to be worried?
We shall see what the problems are: with ‘taharrush gamea’ and for BDSM and why we have to commit to both sanity as too clear communication of consent and our right of sexual expression of kink.
(As always: This blog is about exploration, not doctrine …)
What is our problem?
The phenomenon of ‘taharrush gamea’ is in my opinion a form of group rape where women - against their will – are intimidated, touched in intimate places and often sexually abused, all in the public space. The abusers are usually a group of Islamic men that find pleasure in degrading women by abusing and harassing their victims, while such men at the same time admire their bodies and sexually desire them.
For those of us that perform BDSM as consensual activity, the phenomenon of ‘taharrush gamea’ is clearly something that is a false expression of power exchange, resulting in non-consensual sex, violence, degradation and abuse; it is the kind of action that we – and other sane persons – would call sick. Just as all kind of rape - whether this happens in the back of a bus in India, in African suburbs, or by soldiers in one of the many wars all over the world - is sick.
The basic idea behind sexual violence against woman is that males are superior to females, or they feel inferior to them, so they must prove their superiority by degrading and objectifying the female body and soul to an object of use. With ‘taharrush gamea’ we can add the idea that female sexuality belongs to males and by taking the ‘property’ of other men, the superiority of the aggressor is displayed over the victims and their families. Feminism, universal women rights and respect for the female sexuality are the proper answers, and - I suppose - we should add consent.
Now, as I see it, this new phenomenon of taharrush gamea confronts us as society with serious tensions. But also regarding BDSM I see two major problems when the wrong kind of sexual submission of women now gets into the focus of mainstream media, then will now not chosen submission be questioned too? So, a) how sane are we kinksters to get our kick on actions that so closely relate to abuse? And, b) how will we be able to defend our thing, in a world that gets an increased sensibility for the connection between submission, human rights and female sexuality?
Causes and stances
It is obvious that in a humane society all forms of abuse must be tackled, the thing I fear, however, is that the reaction on female unfriendly mechanisms, like patriarchy, sexism and discrimination, can also turn against role play that involve inspiration from such and similar mechanism. The reason is that with ‘taharrush gamea’ as an expression of cultural failure, similar expressions – like gangbang parties in a BDSM club - may not sufficiently be distinguished, particularly not in a society that re-evaluates its own moral identity and is still largely focused on heteronormativity and monogamy.
Again, it will be a discourse regarding values. Previously I wrote:
“When it concerns BDSM, is will be clear that the ‘good old’ family values will be challenged at the least.”
As family values, we identified: monogamy, fidelity, chastety and morality. Regarding those “good” old values, we can say that underlying assumptions like male supremacy and female submissiveness were and are sort of an understatement in earlier times. As with any idea where status difference is presupposed, it will come as no surprise that when sexism, macho culture and patriarchal structures have a dominant stance on culture and society, the family values were not equally valid for all sexes; particularly in cultures where the phenomenon of ‘taharrush gamea’ thrive, we see that the ideas of male superiority and sexual dominance go hand in hand.
Potency is an expression of power and thus overpowering women, is stealing power from these women and their families and sexually exciting on top of that. By lowering women, by shaming them and their families, by displaying their vulnerability and intimate body parts, those who gain power from that are – seen from a feminist point of view – powerless, as it is not given to them as persons who seems worthy of receiving power, but stolen by abuse and fuelled by self-delusive views on superiority.
Yet, also in Western culture we see gross injustice and sexism; a cheating man is a lady-killer, where as an unfaithful woman is a slut. As a sexual sadist, I love sluts and I am also acquainted with rape-fantasy and know its formidable sexual stimulation, as well as its narcissism. To submit another person, to shame them, to use them for my own pleasure and to toy with their pain, vulnerability and sexual energy is something I get my kick from. The big difference is however, that sensible sadist do care about their bottoms, lovers and play partners and that their satisfaction is part of their motivation. Ultimately, we all want to do the kinky stuff we are engaging in.
From this it is easy to understand, that those who engage in sexual harassment of women in a public space are driven by different and quite contradictory ideas, which are built on the premises of false superiority and misunderstanding of the way on how societies that endorse human rights actually work.
Abuse of weaker persons is not a sign of strength or an honourable thing. Abuse of women who belong to other families or lovers or husbands, is not making you a true master, but show that you regard women, their bodies and their sexuality as commodities that you can own. Mastery on the other hand is when others line up in the desire to serve you, voluntarily and without force, aggression or pressure.
Those whose view on humanity actually belongs to times long past are in need of an enlightenment similar to what we have seen in the Western post-Christian world, which step by step has led to improvements in female rights and as a consequence led to improvements, like the right to vote, to divorce, to use contraception, to have an abortion, to have equal working rights and payments, to receive social benefits and child support and so on. At the same time, also the position of other weak groups in society, like children and fugitives, has improved.
With regard to ‘taharrush gamea’, a particularly sad thing - on top of the pain of the victims and their families and friends - is that the perpetrators violate the sacredness of sexual intimacy between human beings. Their selfish, narcissistic and delusive sexual excitement actually only shows inferiority and also gross disrespect for healthy male sexuality and deprives the culprits from genuine pleasure in a sound loving and caring environment.
Threads and chances
If we as kinky persons play according to safe, sane and consensual rules and clearly communicate that we love our play partners, and not want to harm them, we will stay on the right track, even when we still have to be careful to play as safe as we can.
The danger is that conservative powers and overly zealous feminist views get back or get even more influence on law making, media and education to promote their view on sexuality and by returning to a more narrow view on sexual diversity, prevent alternative genders and sexuality to enfold further and instead make them flee back in the closet again.
I personally experienced that it is okay when one of my female friends has her boyfriend kneel for her, as that is seen as liberating to her female sexuality, but when I have my submissives serve me and I treat them like the sluts they desire to be, I get accused of being a macho-pig and having no respect for women and it will be presupposed that I suffer from a sick sexuality and worldview. That my sadism and the joy of my bottoms as bottoms is also sexually liberating to all of us, is not as easily accepted. My fear is that phenomena like ‘taharrush gamea’ does not add to a social climate where more tolerance for sadism and consensual play with gender roles is thriving. And this is a thing that worries me: it worries me that my whips could be forbidden, that erotic spanking will be regarded as domestic violence, that rape play or enjoying a sex-slave will get me in trouble with the law and authorities.
We must of course take a stance against sexual violence and abuse of any individual, regardless of gender, age or culture and as kinky folks, we should expressively do that. But we should also take care, that sick behaviour does not render the liberation we worked for in the past thirty years useless by letting conservatives and starry-eyed idealist turn back time and put their old values upon us.
Remember, this is just thinking out loud. As always, I wish you good luck on your journeys, in- and outside of the dungeon: be cautious and play safe and with a heart.
Enjoy – Sir Cameron