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Witchy-Ina-Box: The Fascinating Perils of Spiritual Materialism.

Capitalism has discovered your pagan spirituality, and it’s very concerned you don’t have the right bling for your altar.

With more and more millennials (and more than a few of us from previous generations who just got fed up with All The Bullshit) turning to new religious movements. The proliferation of The Goddess Made Me Publish My Grimoire type books, the heavy marketing of occult publishers Llewellyn, and the fact that there are far more people defining as Wiccan and wanting to be Wiccan than Wiccan covens can cope with on their traditional apprentice-type initiation paths, means that the thirst for esoteric knowledge is insatiable. New adepts are worried they are not Doing It Right (whatever brand of It it is) and someone, somewhere, can sell you just what you need for a mere 80 quid, guv’nor, and that’s cutting me own throat.

Anywhere capitalists get their filthy fingers in your pie can become the Ancient and Noble Way of Bullshito if you’re not careful. I’ve seen landfill-destined thermoplastic chalices, Green man laminated mug mats…you get the picture. For those of us, though, who are artisan craft-oriented there are even subtler dangers.

Let’s face it, many of us are geeks. I’m not immune myself to shiny things, being something of a magpie. Bling bling bling the nest out! In many ways I’m your classic Libra girl, I love art and music and beautifully crafted things. Handwoven rugs and carved boxes and hand-tooled leather. I’m a snob when it comes to my SM toys as well. No I DO NOT WANT your nasty plastic whip, thank you very much. No I don’t care if you’ve renamed it a “vegan” whip to sound hipper. Who doesn’t love the shiny things, my precious… but as with everything else, you absolutely do not need those shiny things. (For that matter, that artisan-crafted whip doth not make the Dom either).

This week I carried out a thought experiment. Let’s say I end up in prison for [insert social justice warrior elated criminal offense here] and I must practice my craft without any of my tools at all. I’d have to get really really good at building a Sherlock-style Mind Palace (or in my case, a Mind Forest) where I cannot practice at all in the flesh. In short, to change my consciousness at will. Without all my things. It’s nice to have ritual tools. But in the end, push come to shove, a twig blown in over the prison fence can become a wand as I declare it. Spells are cast with mud from the yard and water from a puddle.

Dion Fortune wrote the witch changes consciousness at will. Things become magical tools or icons of the divine because we anoint them and declare them as such, we consecrate them…and we use them.

Which brings me to the little boxes full of witchy bling.

Subscription boxes are not unheard of in other fields of geekdom. The idea is that you buy a flat-rate subscription to a company and they send you a goodie box filled with stuff related to your interests. I know a guy who gets a tech subscription box full of cool gadgets, and someone else who has her meals for cooking delivered with something interesting for dinner every night. The latter I might even be tempted to try myself if I had a family and very well-paid job but very little time to meal plan cook and shop for food. They work on the powerful “whats-in-the-box” or “Christmas stocking mentality”, in which you know there will be something nice but not sure what. Excitement, mystery, delight. And part of me feels that grown-ups (particularly working women with families) really don’t have enough excitement, mystery and delight in their lives so I understand the appeal, especially for women whose partners never get them anything they’d like and have to broadly hint or even outright buy her own birthday present box it and wrap it for her husband to give her. Boxes are usually themed and depending on the service are, maybe worth it perhaps in terms of an experience, a surprise gift, broadening your taste (in the case of wine club subscriptions) or (in the case of the food) convenience. Until May, I’d never heard of them for witchcraft though.

Capitalists, though. See a niche, exploit it like a motherfucker.

At Bealtaine a woman from my local Open Circle raving about her “hedge witch box” and all the things they sent her, and I tried not to roll my eyes (or make eye contact with the HP who had her poker face on for precisely the same reason). The woman seemed absolutely obsessed with it, talking about it the way an addict lovingly talks about cocaine (just read Sigmund Freud’s notes on cocaine use and you’ll get the idea). I dismissed it as wannabe new age rubbish. But then a friend of mine invited me to view the online unboxing of her metaphysical subscription box. I’d always considered her pretty level headed. So I checked out her youtube video and then went and then spent a rather obsessive evening of my own viewing unboxings from this particular company. Candles, out-of-the-can spells on parchment, an oracle reading that was only ever positive, uplifting and above all VAGUE, blended anointing oils, a pretty pendant or talisman to wear, a beeswax candle covered in plastic glitter (seriously), and hunks of crystal…themes varied from protection through to wealth through to contacting your astral Thingies and Whatsists. All slickly packaged. There is an entire online culture of mainly millennial witches (all pretty, white, and young, and some who have been given the boxes for free by the company) gushing and oohing and aahing about what’s in the box.

On a completely mundane level, the witchy-ina-box people were working to the same powerful mystery-box Christmas-stocking marketing psychology that powers the rest of the geek subscription services. But as I watched a box or two being unpacked I felt a strange draw or tug. I started desiring or wanting the boxes. Given that I had entered the viewing with worry for my friend (she’s not wealthy) and while I like pretty things, have my own views about what constitutes witchcraft, I knew something wasn’t quite right.

What was the appeal here? Easy enough if you understand marketing. But the language these women were using was strange. “Omg you guys I love love LOVE this company, I love their boxes. Squeeeeee! OMG I’m so obsessed with this right now, I have these crystals all over my room….gush gush gush.” They sounded just like my witchy-ina-box fellow circler at Bealtaine, and shoot me with a silver bullet if my practical friend wasn’t beginning to sound just like that. And the boxes were so … fascinating… me wants it my precious…

A cold shower later and another look at a videos. The objects appeared well-made and beautifully crafted. The packaging was appealing. The focus was clearly generic Wiccan, or at least “wiccish”, aimed at adepts who defined as Wiccan but didn’t have the guidance of a coven. The herbal bath salts looked wonderful. And they all still had that draw, an almost sticky feel to the presentation… sticky…sticky…I read something about sticky. Then I recalled a book written by Appalachias own Granny Weatherwax, H. Byron Ballard.

“A glamour is a spell for personal advancement of some kind … it’s a very old technique, very useful . . . it feels sticky…”

Hmmmmm. How were these witches talking? The magic words, right there in front of me, all the while.

“OMG you guys, I’m so obsessed with these boxes, you have to check them out!”

“Oh, I love unwrapping this. Look at this necklace, it’s so fascinating!

“Wow, these crystals are so eye-catching! look at how huge they are!”

“I just can’t get enough of these boxes, and it came right on the new moon, witchy folks watching this.”

“It’s another [company name] unboxing folks, and can I just say how addicted I am to this company and their awesome products!”

And there was my friend, who had subscribed to one of these boxes, another box by the same company to do with herbs, and yet another from a different (but similar) commercial outfit. She works in a very low-paid service profession. I know she’s struggling for money, and these things don’t come cheap.

I wrote to my friend along the lines of:

“Look, this box looks amazing, but why would you want to have the spells of an unknown adept over your door. You don’t really know these people’s motivations, aside from making money. Could you not get together with another witchy friend and do a sort of monthly witchy Secret Santa where you agree on the money (take the money you’d spend on one of these subscriptions) and put together a tailored gift box for your friend? Reciprocal blessing box? That way you could be sure what’s in the boxes are ethically sourced, and nothing but really good intentions goes in the box?“

My friend reacted like a starving dog who just had the bone she was eyeing removed. “I can’t afford to do that with a friend!”

That confirmed it. Those boxes were spelled to addict, to keep people coming back and paying more and more. The exchange of energy (money) being what was being sucked away — and possibly emotional spoons.

I did some exercises of my own to remove the addictive fascination from my own psyche.

Yuck.

Having stuff doesn’t make you a witch. In learning from my lover, I’ve discovered that how you live, and how you think, is what makes you witchy, not what you have. Most “witches” go to work and work within energy-sucking authoritarian systems completely unaware of the drain on their psyches or aware but unable to change things. But learning the ebb and flow of your own energy, working with your own boundaries and respecting those of others, keeping your home clear of stagnant energy (Lady, I find that so so difficult), working by consensus and in community, all of that is more witchy than highly polished ceremonial whatsidoodles, mystic crystal revelations and all the rest of the trappings.

The most beautiful witch in my life, my lover, does not have any tools at at all aside from her large steel catering cooking pot, which I’m convinced is one of the magical treasures of the British Isles. If she needs a wand, she’ll find one in a hedge. I’m a different sort of witch (probably not as good as she is) and I have tools. Most of us have a few things, depending on taste, leanings, and traditions.

This experience has me questioning how much we really need, and how steep the dangers of spiritual materialism. I rarely build altars inside (being only a baby at making sure my home has no pools of stagnant energy), preferring to do as my ancestors did and find a three-forked tree outside. When I do make them they’re temporary and they don’t look Wiccish, and I use some of the tools slightly differently than a Wiccan might, but last night I decided to make a Vaguely Wiccish Altar just with what I had for the purposes of illustrating that an Altar need not come from a witchy-ina-box kit from the internet. I did take a photo of it but then woke up to a nightmare about putting pictures of my consecrated tools up online, so here’s the diagram:

My lover could probably make one just with what’s in the kitchen.

Sure, I have things I got for myself — some of them are beautiful objects. Libra girls have great taste, after all winks. On a more practical level a non-dyspraxic witch might be able to go to a ceramics class and make a chalice or cauldron or offering dish without it coming out like an amorphous blob whereas us less dextrous folks do sometimes buy stuff because we lack the woodturning, metallurgy or pottery skills needed. Even so, there are hand-made things in my toolkit, and they might not look the best but because I made them they work fine — and were easier to use than things given to me or things bought. A bit like subs, magical tools improve with aftercare.

But the nicest things I have were given to me by treasured people who welcomed me onto this path or even random strangers. In magic gifts are powerful, powerful things (for good and for ill),

Others are cabbaged from charity shops and thrift stores.

A friend of mine, a Wiccan High Priest, once advised me that when it comes to tools for Craft

  • Something you make or grow yourself is preferred.
  • If you can’t make or grow it, the next best thing is to use something gifted to you.
  • If you have to buy it, pay the price as asked, or a little bit more, and do not haggle to lower the price.

To this I will add, that buying an unfinished item and completing the work, repurposing a mundane object, recycling materials, and working to enhance or create all work beautifully, and mostly better, sooner, than bought items. I can ask an artisan to do the shaping and difficult bits of making, but do the finishing work yourself (eg sanding, painting, oiling or waxing). I can also repair and rescue things, and those things are often my most powerful allies. My little copper cauldron is magical not just because I declared it so. It was bought from a charity shop that works in an important traditional area of a Witch’s craft — work with the dying. My chalice is magical not just because I blessed it by a scared well and because it “looks witchy”. It was made by a local artisan who rescued a piece of walnut that someone else had thrown away. My colouring book for grown-ups will have hundreds of times the power of some out-of-the-can grimoire page.

Doodles

Beautiful tools and objects d’art can uplift the spirit. But they are not witchcraft in and of themselves, and materialism carries inherent dangers. Often the most significant tools we have come from habitual daily use from the things we put our passion and energy (time-energy and emotional-energy, not just money-energy) into them. And should we acquire something we’re not sure about who has had it before you and what they did with it, here is something useful from Sarah-Anne Lawless, which allows you to reset something to neutral before reconsecrating it.

To that end, should you get crystals through the mail in a witchy-ina-box, handle with care.

And several cups of salt.

Grooming, Abuse and Predators: A Breakdown for S-Type Humans and for the Genuine D-Types who love them.

The essay below is one of the most rated pieces of writing,, now published here for the first time. It’s written from a female-submissive cisheteronormative standpoint, just as I was emerging from the LGBTQ closet, so I hope it’s translatable accross all genders and dynamics. The essay uses Scene terminology (s-type for submissive, bottom, masochist, receiver or ‘done-unto’ in a consensual power exchange arrangement, and D-type for the dominant, top, sadist, or ‘doer’ in a dynamic. 

Online and in “Real Life” I come across sub after sub who has had nasty incidents in their pasts, ones in which a deviant, dominant predator has seized control, messed with their heads, and committed consent violation after consent violation. Before I begin, I’d also like to say that while “consent violation” is the term we use in the Scene for what I’m talking about, I think, like much of the Scene terminology, that it’s a problematic term, because too often it leads to a sub escaping or emerging from an abusive relationship dynamic saying something like “my consent was violated.” So while I will use the term consent violation, I prefer to use the term “psychosexual assault” or “sexual assault” depending on the circumstances (there are other less severe incidences which are more properly termed boundary violations). Make no bones about it: if you’ve been targeted by a predator intent on consent violation, your consent has been ignored. *You,* not some abstraction in terms of consent, have been violated. You’ve become the target of the assailant.

Secondly, while we talk about this all the time in D/S circles, I view the BDSM Scene as no more dangerous than any other alternative circle, including vanilla-land, because abuse thrives on silence, and predators work where their prey can be silenced. Predation is a feature of our dominant culture, not subcultures. This is why, I believe, so many s-type humans end up in abusive relationship dynamics before they awaken to their sexuality. In effect, they’ve already been in “vanilla” D/S relationships, one in which explicit, informed consent is never discussed. Many have already been targeted by the kind of dominant predator I’m about to discuss. When abused s-types then enter the Scene, they are the wounded antelopes of the herd. Predators are drawn to where there is prey. So if you find that over and over again your consent is ignored and you find yourself un unhealthy or abusive scenarios or relationships, this is probably the reason. At the end of this post I’ll place some resources. It goes without saying that whether in the Scene or out of it, awareness of the underlying anatomy of how abusers operate and how we inadvertently scent the water with our blood, will much to keep you safe in your future relationships and make sure the monsters of your past remain in your past and not an endless loop in your current life-story.

This grooming is a feature of nearly all abusive relationships—since what we’re talking about is the abuser (the consent violator) taking advantage of a skewed power dynamic. We talk about grooming the most with child sexual abuse, but I’ve seen it play out between adults. For example, the way cults groom and recruit their targets follows the same steps as the way an abuser selects their target for intimate partner abuse. The fictional (yet terrifyingly real) Christian Grey, for example, follows these exact steps with the hapless Anastasia, except that EL James romanticizes this and in doing so, “taught” many emerging subs who recognized their sexuality after reading the book that Christian’s behavior is what consensual erotic leadership—consensual dominance—is all about. One of the best breakdowns of this cult-leader/cult-target dynamic was done by the folks at Film Theory, and you find their analysis here. [1] Suffice to say that many s-types arrive in the Scene already primed and socially conditioned to read harmful, predatory and abusive behaviour as ‘normal’ or unable to distinguish it from real dominance.

So what are the stages of sexual abuse grooming?

The skewed power dynamic between a dominant abuser and a submissive target is similar to a child sex abuser and his victim, and so that’s the model I’m using here. That is not to say that s-types should be infantilised, but that in a D/S relationship the Dominant party wields great power of over the Submissive. This is the principle reason why I do not buy into the Gift of Submission theory  which forms the basis of Scene propaganda when explaining BDSM to mainstreamers (this is the idea that the submissive has all the real power in the dynamic). To buy into it means we cannot keep ourselves safe. To keep ourselves safe, we must first recognise that a sexual dominant is given real power over a sexual submissive in an erotic context where the submissive has entered into their sphere of psychological control. One can enter that sphere consensually, or, as is most often the case with the abusive types, non-consensually, when the abuser starts to exercise subtle psychological control, turning the s-type’s psychosexuality against them (as we’ll see in the worked example below).

Psychologists have broken down sexual abuse grooming has six well-defined stages.[2]

Stage 1: Targeting the target

Stage 2: Gaining the target’s trust

Stage 3: Filling a need

Stage 4: Isolating the target

Stage 5: Sexualising the target or accelerating the sexual dynamic.

Stage 6: Maintaining control

However, it’s one thing to see a list of steps, and another to see it played out. Though scenarios vary, the underlying anatomy of grooming doesn’t change. I’m going to be looking at sexual abuse grooming in a D/s power dynamic, using the words of a predator. I’m going to say, with a voice drier than Ghandi’s sandal, that I’m assuming that the account I’m quoting from—found online on a BDSM community group discussion—-is fictional and satirical, given it was posted in a group set up to try and warn s-types how to spot abusers and differentiate them from real consensual dominance. It struck me as I read it I was looking at classic sexual abuse grooming, so it seemed as good an example as any.

Let’s take the first stage.

Selecting the target.

Here we have our fictional (dry sahara voice) abuser deliberately selecting those women whom he believes will be good targets. Now, it’s important to remember he’s also trying to imply that these s-type women somehow asked for it, that they deserved this behaviour and deserved to be ‘put in their place.’ The desire to lower another to establish one’s own ‘dominance’ is a feature of such individuals. So the opening paragraph is designed to gain the reader’s sympathy, because, you know, everyone hates a bitch. We’ll have to read between the lines to see what kind of target he’s going for.

Trust me, no one deserves this, no one ‘asks for this’ and ‘putting submissives in their place’ is not what consensual dominance is about. The (fictional, right?) abuser confesses:

There are times when a female has taken a liking to me, and I’m turned off by her behavior, whether she acts rudely, childishly, overly emotionally (tantrum level), confrontationally, or just plain meanly to others. In situations like this, I have been known to show excessive disinterest for highly extensive periods of time, including saying, “I’m not interested, please go away.” Sometimes, this makes her crave my attention even more, since she can’t have it. Then, I become forward and bluntly honest, but still polite. I get highly rude after this point, but very rarely, I decide to have sex with her instead; not for pleasure, or attraction, but because I really want to dominate someone, I don’t care who, and she has yet to leave me alone. When I select one of them to play the role I desire, my goal is to make her regret wanting me by showing her what I like, and thus, that I am definitely not her type.

Firstly, note the objectification and the dehumanization of his very first sentence. Female. Not woman. He selects someone who is emotionally vulnerable. She might have lashed out at him, or at her boyfriend or lover during a munch and stormed off, she might have got caught up in friendship or relationship drama. She might have reacted defensively to something the abuser or someone else has said, or been triggered during a discussion. DoucheDom has selected his target who is—by virtue of the drama or fight or argument—socially isolated, and vulnerable. He’s got his wounded antelope. He’s portrayed his victim here as someone who won’t leave him alone—this is dissembling, another very common trait with d-type predators displaying the dark triad of antisocial personality disorder, narcissism and Machiavellianism. “I was really the victim here! It was self-defence from this man-eating female.” (If the dark triad occurs together with sexual sadism then this is a very bad combination for the s-type target, as we’ll see as the scenario progresses.) In reality he’ll have situated himself in her orbit, ready to engage her. He has however, been honest about his goal: not to get the victim to believe she’s not his type, but to be able to non-consensually dominate the victim in such a way that she will be silenced in the process:

I get highly rude after this point, but very rarely, I decide to have sex with her instead; not for pleasure, or attraction, but **because I really want to dominate someone, I don’t care who,** and she has yet to leave me alone. **When I select one of them to play the role I desire, my goal is to make her regret wanting me by showing her what I like,** and thus, that I am definitely not her type.

Aside from pointing out the obvious that obtaining real consent is not what he’s about here, I’ve highlighted the true bits in this paragraph. The rest is dissembling, because that forms a technique called negging. Predators go one of two ways, in my experience. They are either excessively charming, or they go in for rudeness and negativity in order to draw an outraged s-type into a discussion or an argument. And the really skilled ones Jackyl-and-Hyde it by oscillating between the two, constantly keeping the target off-balance psychologically, going hand in hand with gaslighting[5] to make the target believe that her own perception and sanity is in doubt. For example, be rude in subtle or even overt manner, and when the target objects, flatly deny the insult and become excessively polite, showering her with attention, asking her if she feels okay. The target thinks “maybe I misunderstood or overreacted.” Remember how she’s been selected. She’s already exhausted, isolated, and emotionally vulnerable.

Negging] [6] — making negative comments or back-handed compliments or even outright insults is a manipulative pick-up artists technique and form of psychological manipulation, based on putting a woman ‘in her place’, especially on who thinks highly of herself or who—in the case of our Target in this scenario—has just asserted herself and become socially isolated in a Scene setting. And it works, unless you know the play. I cannot recommend enough BDSM Feminist Clarisse Thorn’s Confessions of a Pick-Up Artist Chaser: Long Interviews with Hideous Men  that really breaks down this behaviour. Negging is most certainly the technique employed by our DoucheDom in this case, but remember that being excessively charming can also be a massive red flag.

The target, having been selected, and engaged is then ready for the next stage of grooming.

Stage 2: Gaining her trust.

Our completely fictional satirical DoucheDom writes:

I merely converse boredly and tell her things that make her become more and more interested in me, while asking many questions and saying certain things to get information. I get into her head, figure out various likes and dislikes, including sexual things then I start making her want me based on her information. Once she is interested enough in me, I start talking a little dirty with her, then start teasing her with what I’m saying. Once she’s worked up enough, I can usually just ask if she’d like to have sex and get a yes.

Here our groomer is being pretty frank with what he does, moving swiftly into the second stage. Gaining the target’s trust is all about information. Again, he’s still dissembling, so he’s saying he’s not a liar and not feigning much interest in her. This is a lie. What he’s doing is subtly drawing her out, making her fill silences, asking more and more pointed and refined questions about her personal (and since this is a BDSM Scene setting where people are much franker, sooner, about what turns them on in order to determine whether a prospective partner is ‘kink compatible’ than perhaps in a vanilla setting. It is also worth remembering that information gathering is also followed by predators operating in vanilla-land. His goal is to get his target into such a state where he can manipulate and coerce her into doing what HE wants, and will—and this is the important bit—sexually coerce her into doing these things while she is with his in the sex acts she *has* consented to. He’s found out what her tastes are, and is now on a mission to override her hard limits and get her to do what he wants. Gaining her trust via the information she gives him about herself, her family, and her preferences is crucial. In order to nominally consent to sex she has to believe they are compatible—has to trust him—to get her into a situation where he can coerce her further.

You can see the information gathering working to gain Ana’s trust in *Fifty Shades,* incidentally. Ana loves her stepfather, and so Christian knows that getting in his good books is all important to gaining his target’s trust. After all, a man her father trusts will be trusted by his victim. He finds out from Ana about Ray’s fishing hobby, and then disembles, feigning interest in fishing so that Ray considers Christian to have some sort of common bond. The reality is Christian couldn’t give a toss about fishing. He’s used information to gain trust.

In the case of the Scene scenario, the Abuser adapts his preferences to match the victim’s. Once he knows her likes and dislikes, he tailors his dirty-talk to her preferences, turning her on and making her believe that they’re compatible. They aren’t. This information gathering is done with the sole purpose of knowing enough about the victim to override her consent and her limits, and should be distinguished from actual consensual D/s negotiation where a Dom is trying to establish there his perspective sub’s limits and triggers are so that their play is consensual and healthy. How can we tell the difference? Because he’s combining the information gathering with dirty talk, rather than a frank and sober discussion over coffee. He’s been rude to her. He’s used manipulative techniques to get her spill more information than she normally would, such as negging or excessive charm, or a combination of the two. Once trust has been gained, he gets the yes to a sexual encounter, usually far sooner than is healthy. By now she’s perhaps also in a submissive headspace with him—and if you’re the sort of sub who slips into subby headspaces around dominants you don’t know well you need to guard yourself against slipping into dynamic before really getting to know someone. [8]

Stage 3: Fulfilling a need

Our groomer has the information he needs to fulfil his s-type targets erotic and relational needs. Since desire is really at the root of erotic vulnerability, knowing what her desires are enables him to fulfil her needs superficially with his ultimate goal or agenda in mind—which is to break her, smash her limits and do what he wants regardless of her actual desires. Need-fulfilment can involve love-bombs of attention and gifts, but it can also involve fulfillment of erotic need.

Here is where, in D/S relationships it gets really twisted, for a sexual submissive has a deep and profound need to erotically follow her partner’s lead. It is a need as much as a gift, to the extent that submissive sexuality is so inherently receptive that out of her need to please her Dominant, she will supply his needs or wishes. It doesn’t take a genius to see how important explicit consent is for any D/S activity or relationship. But DoucheDom here doesn’t care about that. He means to turn her psychosexuality against her for his end purpose, not his partner’s sexual joy or fulfilment. Worse still, because he’s using her sexuality against her, he knows that she is most likely going to blame herself for what he’s about to do to her, and the shame will keep her silent, because her erotic needs have made her complicit in her own abuse. This is vital for maintaining control, a later stage.

Look at how our Completely Fictional Abuser does it in his little confession:

As it progresses I become very dominant, but also cruel. I start off lightly, and keep my actions limited only to what she wants and to what we actually have in common, then it gets more intense with time until she reaches a state of emotionally numb bliss, then I take advantage of that bliss, and everything becomes about getting what I want out of her. I start mixing what I want into what she wants, while still putting her deeper and deeper into that blissfully numb state, until she’s doing things she never expected to do, and is in too much bliss to care. From there, I start to really fuck with her mind, causing the signals to get confused by doing things I know she doesn’t like in a way I know she’ll enjoy. Typically, I start sexually humiliating her at this point as well; subtly at first, but more intensely as I continue to proceed.

We see him using the information and the trust he’s gained to get her into a sexually submissive encounter in which her sexuality is fully in play. She’s in those subby headspaces, even in subspace itself, in order to push and override her limits. This is the classic frog in boiling water scenario, DoucheDom turns up the psychological pressure on the submissive and while in the altered state of subspace gets her to “consent” to activities he knows are hard limits. Ethical dominants never negotiate or change the goal posts mid-Scene or encounter. Affirmative consent can only be obtained with a clear head. But DoucheDom here doesn’t give a shit about consent, he’s after the override switch.  He also moves into devaluation play—degradation and humiliation. As we know this is an especially powerful flavour of D/S play that taps psychologically into some very dark places.

Stage 4: Isolation

Of course targets are selected because they are isolated in the first place or likely not to garner much sympathy. He chose the “brat” who needed to be put in her place, the “feminist” who stood up for someone and anyone folks in the process, the girl who was in tears because of relationship drama. So from the start of this, his target has been isolated. But the process of working her sexuality against her also brings shame into play. Shame makes us less able to speak out, call that safeword, or seek help. He’ll imply that use of a safeword means she’s “failed” in submission. He may even start rumors or drama to isolate his target or monopolize a new submissive so that she doesn’t make friends or contacts with anyone else. Once isolated from our friends, mentors, and community (if we ever had one), the stage is set for the next level.

Stage 5 Sexual Acceleration.

He’s turning up the pressure, smashing through those limits long before tehy even know each other as a couple. This is not normal and is a feature of every abusive relationship ever, kinky or vanilla.

Once I’ve done all this, I let things get a bit dark. I slowly start throwing in more things I enjoy that she dislikes, while barely doing as she wants until I am doing as I please and she’s unable to say stop without losing the bliss. Once I can tell she is struggling not to say stop, I keep making it harder for her by giving her just enough small doses of things she highly enjoys right when she’s about to, until they can physically take no more, or I have had my fun, whether that involves orgasm (which I typically use for humiliation in some way) or just getting bored after a while and purposefully overdoing it, forcing them to tell me to stop.

Only “a bit dark”? Minimisation—another trait of the abuse. Everything he does from this point in is done it when she’s already in an altered state. There is no difference between what this chap does (completely fictional of course, it’s all satirical, right?) and dropping a roofie into someone’s drink. The powerful headspaces and physical biochemistry brought on by intense D/S play are just as powerful a drug as anything the pushers push. And that this why ethical Doms wait until their Sub is down out of subspace before suggesting new activities: because you can’t meaningful consent in such a state. This is where his activities have just (of course it’s fictional right?) moved into sexual assault. Worse still, she’ll believe she asked for it, believe she wanted it, believe she deserved it. And unless she has someone break it down for her and tell her this isnt her fault, she’ll believe this for the rest of her life. Because he’s groomed her. In short, he’s turned her sexuality against her will.

And you’ve been abused and unable to call a halt or get out of the situation it’s because we’re at:

Stage 6—Maintaining Control

Once all is said and done, I am still uninterested, just as before, and I don’t pretend otherwise. In the end, my goal is to have given her some of the best sex she’s ever had while also being allowed to cross every line until I’ve left her feeling used, ashamed, and maybe even guilty, in hopes that they will finally leave me be. I’ve done this a few times, and I find that I don’t often have to be rude to those I’ve taken this path with as they tend to feel too awkward about the situation to speak with me much about anything.

Note here the lack of aftercare. Tossing the target aside like she’s a used tissue, her objectification complete. And the dissembling of “I hope they will leave me alone after this” (I’m really the victim here! She asked for it!). Don’t believe it for a second. There’s only one predator in this scenario. The isolation comes because shame, devaluation, and desire have been used in such a way to make sure the victim is effectively silenced, that no one will believe her if she speaks out, that even she does not believe her own wounds. Because ultimately this scenario is all about Stage 6: maintaining control long enough to get what he wants before moving to the next victim.

He also maintains control via her silence, via her psychosexual injury, long after he is no longer physically there. He counts on the fact her sexuality has been used against her: that shame will keep her quiet.

In a longer-term abusive relationship, rather than the single encounter DoucheDom here refers to, maintaining control prevents the target from leaving the relationship.

Ways Forward:

If all of this sounds utterly terrifying for s-types, can I also say that it absolutely does not have to be this way. Though it *is* statistically likely that you will meet predators in the course of your life (one person in 30 being a socialised psychopath) It is neither inevitable that you will be preyed upon or continue to be preyed upon. If all this makes you believe that D/S relationships are more “dangerous” than vanilla ones, I have to say that—speaking as a Survivor—I have never been more confident or as happy as I am when I took the decision not to date “vanilla”. I thought I would be alone for the rest of my life, instead what I found was a man who passionately loves me, friends who get me, and peace, for the first time in a very long time. Navigating my D/S sexuality means I get choices, I get to discuss stuff openly, and I can keep myself safer than I could in vanillaland where we like to do things but not talk about them. Bear in mind that all of this can be applied in vanillalandia as well. Once you understand your sexuality and learn what predation looks like, you can take control of your own narrative and have firm foundations to build solid and happy D/S relationships. Good community is the best way, I believe, to do this: cultivate friendships and mentors among experienced subs and doms.

Study the real thing. The folks at the bank trained to spot forged banknotes don’t study fakes. They study the real thing, so they can spot the fake when it shows. Real consensual dominance is a million miles from DoucheDom and his psychological terrorism. To that end, I strongly recommend “The Heart of Dominance” by Anton Fulmen  [9] as an excellent primer on what consensual erotic leadership is supposed to look like. Written as a guide for d-types, it’s also useful for us s-types as well, as is his [Consensual Dominance blog. [10] I think the thing that really strikes me about Fulmen’s writing is that he places consent at the absolute heart of dominance. As in not a “oh shit now I have to think about consent before we get to the good stuffs” but as an intrinsic quality of erotic leadership.

Consider who is around you at events and munches and in our online communities. I’ve been blessed with some scary sadomasochists in my life who have helped me navigate my journey and those folks exist there for you to. Find mentors—but note DoucheDom also appears as a lover/mentor introducing ‘fresh meat’ to the Scene. A mentor is not a lover.  As with any skills-based pathway, you are best mentored by someone whom you are not fucking. Avoid drama, don’t leave your friends behind, use safe calls,  generally practice situational awareness. These sorts of predators exist everywhere, but it’s important to remember that BDSM is largely underground and as such shame or fears of exposure keeps victims from contacting the authorities. Predators know this. Vet your dates. Interview them properly. Cultivate and value your friendships according to your ethics and values, but get rid of the toxic ones. Don’t be isolated. And be community-minded. Abuse thrives in cultures of silence, behind closed doors. Be a good friend. Watch for signs of isolation among your friends, and—while I know that exhibitionism is a thing for many—unless you know your partner really well, you might want to rethink the sexy photos or things that could be used to coerce, silence, blackmail or otherwise maintain control.

For d-types. If you’re not a predator, don’t act like one. Take the initiative and encourage your prospective sub to think about safety. Don’t ask her to call you Sir, Master or Daddy within five minutes of meeting her (remember escalation red flag), bring up safe calls and other safety matters before she does. If she has to bring it up, then she’s already enforcing boundaries to protect herself—from you. Don’t as her for pictures, personal details, home or work addresses. Place informed consent at the heart of every single interaction. Show yourself to be a safe, effective leader worthy of trust and capable of inspiring trust. If you’re reading this thinking “shit, being a sub sucks” make it your business to make sure that the expression and celebration of the s-type sexuality in your community is a positive thing and does *not* suck. Hold yourselves, and others, to high standards of behaviour. And for the love of the Virgin Mary, if you run events, host or organise them, get a consent policy with legs on it and boot the DoucheDoms from your number.

If you’ve been the target of predation, then you’ll have some stuff to work through. I recommend finding a kink-aware therapist for this. And I also recommend [this article][https://activesubmission.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/self-care-for-s-types/] on self-care for s-types written by a friend of mine.

One of the dangers of vanilla psychotherapy is that they might inadvertently blame your assault on your kinky sexuality, rather than marked predation that follows the pattern of grooming well recognised in “vanilla” land (eg cults, child grooming, domestic violence). If you’re American, the Society of Janus maintains a list of therapists. As far as I’m aware we’re under-served in the UK, but they might have additional contacts, and many American therapists can also work remotely over Skype or Email.

It’s difficult to describe the sort of long-term damage that can be done when your own sexuality is used to abuse you. Those negative thoughts, the voice of our internal place of shame, can buzz around in your head like a stuck record. I didn’t want it but he made me feel anyway. I should have been smarter. I should have seen what he was right away. I asked for it. I deserved it. It was my fault. I’m sick. If you’ve had this playing over in your mind after a sexual encounter or a relationship, I’m here to tell you right now:

You are not alone.

You are not sick.

You were targeted and groomed.

IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

You’ve been subjected to psychological torture techniques, and if you would forgive a soldier for breaking psychologically under prolonged interrogation and converting to Islamism or Communism, then forgive yourself. The military are trained to withstand psychological operations, and soldiers still break. You’ve had no training. Forgive yourself, and get help. It’s my view that people—especially submissive people—exiting abusive relationships or scenarios need similar exit counseling given to cult survivors or refugees who’ve been subjected to “enhanced interrogation.”

Chaps like our (completely fictional) DoucheDom above think they’re clever. They think that they have some superpower of getting s-types to do what they want. They write shitty little self congratulatory pieces in obscure corners of the internet for other monsters to drool over.  And for the ones who need an audience for their genius and place subtle calls on the internet for fan clubs, their need for narcissistic supply allows us to analyse their actions. Really, they are quite ordinary predators, boring little men, who, once unmasked and recognised for what they are, cannot touch you.

Okay, this has taken up too much of your time, and mine. I hope this helps. Whether it does or doesn’t your comments would be appreciated below.

Copyright:

This article is released under the Creative Commons licience, which means you can republish and distributed as long you attribute.
——————–
The promised footnotes:

(Edited to add, this article is from a cis, het female, sub perspective, and I HOPE it’s transferable in some way to other orientations).

[1] The Film Theorists. ‘Film Theory: Fifty Shades of Grey Cult Theory’. YouTube. June 16, 2015. Posted January 15, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VVyh_IM3Ik.
[2] ‘National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse’. Accessed January 15, 2017. http://www.naasca.org/2011-Articles/010911-6StagesOfGrooming.htm.
[4] ‘Shedding Light on Psychology’s Dark Triad’. 1991. Accessed January 15, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201301/shedding-light-psychology-s-dark-triad
[5] Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 2017. s.v ‘Gaslighting’. Accessed January 15, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting.
[6] Schwyzer, Hugo. ‘Dude, Don’t “Neg”.’ May 31, 2011. Accessed January 15, 2017. http://jezebel.com/5807100/dude-dont-neg.
[7] Thorn, Clarisse and Beautiful Disasters Photography. ‘Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser: Long Interviews with Hideous Men eBook: Clarisse Thorn, Beautiful Disasters Photography: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store’. 1996. Accessed January 15, 2017. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Confessions-Pickup-Artist-Chaser-Interviews-ebook/dp/B007I5HRQU.
[8]’BDSM: The Things You Need To Know’ ‘Two Kinds of Subspace’’. January 14, 2017. Accessed January 15, 2017. http://thejourneyofwill.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/two-kinds-of-subspace.html.
[9] Fulmen, Anton. ‘The Heart of Dominance: A Guide to Practicing Consensual Dominance – Kindle Edition by Anton Fulmen. Health, Fitness & Dieting Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com’. 1996. Accessed January 15, 2017. https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Dominance-practicing-consensual-dominance-ebook/dp/B01F8C7L2Y.
[10]Fulmen, Anton. “Consensual Dominance: Theory and Practice for Doing It well” Accessed January 15, 2017. http://consensualdominance.net/?p=5.
[11] BDSM: Things you need to know. November 10, 2016. Accessed January 15, 2017. http://thejourneyofwill.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/how-to-interview-dommaster-prospect.html

Ways to Amuse Yourself After Being Disappeared by Digital Brownshirts.

Internet Cyberbullying has reached new depths on this very special day.

Authoritarian nationalists–aka fascists– like all bullies are wonderful at playing the victim. One of their favorite tactics is to accuse others of victimizing them by not tolerating their hate-speech. The trivial, pedantic and flimsy nature of their complaints should vbe a dead giveaway to any moderator with half a brain cell, so there must be another motive in place.

No matter. In the Age of Thuggery, your objection to their hate-speech is hate speech! Meanwhile, they’re quite happy to let people conduct prolonged campaigns of running women out of our digital communities with systematic bullying, or to lend credence to taking umbrage because someone objected to their horrible opinions.

In the latest foray in one of my social media communities, a well-known liberal voice here objected to Alt-Right appropriation of the most famous anti-fascist poems ever written, by Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). Lampooning them in a parody, this was reported by the wounded Alt-right bullies.

What constitutes hate speech?  Well, I get a lot of light adverse comments from the Alt-right. I should know, hmmm?

Is it calling someone “River of Snot”? Is it actively misgendering a writer, screaming “cunt on stilts at them?” How about random rape fantasies dropped into a woman’s inbox, or open rape fantasies, stated in political forums, about anally raping a woman with a knife? Calling someone a Jew-lover or a N*gger-lover, even?

Apparently not.

Friends, you’ve got it all wrong.

Real hate speech is satirically mocking a fascist’s misappropriation of an anti-fascist poem in a comment. The fascist in question loathes SJWs. They have a whole “how to oppose SJWs” on their profile. Oh *lots of people here* hate anarcho-socialists and social democrats writing here. But the persecution complex of this hateful little twerp is so pronounced they appropriated an antifascist poem, written as a memorial to the Holocaust (of all things) was misappropriated by an American authoritarian nationalist because of they that social democrats who politically disagree with her “hate” them and try to “silence’ them.

Outraged, a well known liberal voice here wrote a response to their appropriation of a shoah poem with the off-the-cuff lines (edited slightly here to reflect the Terms of Use).

‘First they came for the neo-Nazis
And I did not speak out
I applauded —
because I hate those scuzzbags’

For these satirical lines reflecting a degree of outrage at misappropriation of a holocaust poem by self-confessed supporters of American Alt-Right Authoritarian Nationalism– a political movement which is supported by people who are proud to call themselves KKK and all the white supremacists who parade around openly in neonazi regalia, only a few days after Jews were gunned down in their own synagogue — this gentleman was summarily banned for a week.

It would seem that the communities digital brownshirts have an issue with liberal or democratic voices there. They run and tell the Head Master at the first sign of a wounded ego. As an “SJW” if I did that, my time would be spent constantly emailing the moderators over the relentless and banal abuse I get there. I also know that as an SJW any complaint I do make is always summarily ignored.

Community moderation rule-breaches towards liberal voices here happen so often, there is no point in reporting them. Even obvious, sustained campaigns are allowed to continue in that particular community. But the special little snowflakes who want our online spaces as their safe-space to bully and abuse, a sort of brownshirt playpen, if you will. Because like other kinds of brownshirt, bad behavior from the alt-right is not only tolerated but tacitly encouraged and protected. We don’t report, most of the time. But the Alt-Right? How quickly they are, and how gossamer thin their translucent milk white tender skin is. They’ll hit “report” at the drop of a made-in-China MAGA hat.

So, if your liberal friends start ‘disappearing’ from your feed, that’s probably the reason. After all, fascists and those in power who support them are great at disappearing people, and everyone has to get their practice is before the *real* disappearance start.

When fascism takes root in a community (an online community like ours, or our face to face communities) to the extent that its supported by those in authority there’s no point in complaining officially. If you do complain, you will be sanctioned as the bully brownshirts play the professional victim in Oscar Winning performances. They complain officially. We know there is no point.

So if you do find yourself banned for opposing fascism, here’s some things to cheer yourself up.

Firstly, if you have that power, take yourself down to a polling station and vote for anyone who isn’t connected to fascists. If a tin of catfood is there as a write-in, vote for a tin of catfood if you cannot stomach to place your X on any of the humans standing for election. If you belong to one of the huddled masses in the rest of the world, light a candle for the tin of catfood, or alternatively for humans who are standing against authoritarian nationalists today.

Secondly, go home, pour yourself your beverage of choice, and watch Reiver’s run down of the best Anti-Trump satire on the net. I’ve cross-posted this for anyone else who may have written a parody poem and been banned by our Exalted Internet Masters for it.

Watching Reiver’s selection of Anti-Trump segments is not illegal yet. And if you have a favorite piece of satire, please post it below. But vote first, if you have that power, while the rest of the free world lights candles for all our futures.

Reiver’s Anti Trump Viewing List

All of Scotland’s insults for the Donald (yes, we hate him here so much the good folks of Aberdeenshire fly Mexican flags within full view of his golf courses).

Likewise, the story of Scottish Farmer Michael Forbs, who has spent decades opposing the Trumpster.

Matt Damon’s portrayal of Judge Kavanaugh

 

Putin Greets America

And the darling, darling Randy Rainbow

 

Please place your satire links below.

For the last time, the Nazi’s weren’t socialist, you fools.

So you’re wondering why everyone’s likening St Donny Littlehands and his disgusting regime to the Third Riech in the 1930s. You believe what your breathren have told you that Nazis were socialist, and you look it up on Wiki or Google, and Lo! Indeed, the translation of Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei is the National Socialist German Worker’s Party,  and golly gosh! That does sound pretty socialist doesn’t it!

But — and I’m sorry if this bursts your bubble — politicians do these things with language to manipulate you into believing one thing when in fact something else is happening. It’s called propaganda which, not coincidentally, is a Spanish loanword to English which means “advertisement”. Advertisers lie. Remember that time you bought that hair cutting device from the telly, and you ended up with a head fit for a fly’s skating rink? Like that.

Anyway, propaganda often means manipulating people into believing something through the use of language. In the 20s and 30s the far right paramilitary movements wanted to draw the working class away from socialism (from communism, democratic socialism, and other socialist movements) so they counterfeited their movement with an agenda of its own and called themselves National Socialist.

The parallel n today’s America would be a guy prancing about in a stupid red hat promising to bring miner’s jobs back, while at the same time enacting policies that shaft the American working class and everyone else.

From Wikipedia (also check the footnotes):

 The Nazi Party emerged from the German nationalist, racist and populist Freikorps paramilitary culture, which fought against the communist uprisings in post-World War I Germany.[6] The party was created as a means to draw workers away from communism and into völkisch nationalism.[7] Initially, Nazi political strategy focused on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois and anti-capitalist rhetoric, although such aspects were later downplayed in order to gain the SUPPORT of industrial entities and in the 1930s the party’s focus shifted to anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist themes.[8] [Emphasis mine].

In other words, the Nazis only pretended to be socialist long enough to gain working-class support and then set about shoring up capitalism and industry and turning to their real targets — Jews and Marxists. Yunno. *Socialists*. And hundreds of thousands of real socialists were sent to the camps along with Jews, Gypsies, LGBTQ people, and everyone else the Nazi regime decided needed to be purged.

Rolling on down the road, we have the same sort of populist counterfeiting with Trump. He comes from the most privileged class in America and yet manages to ape the language of the common man. Man, however. He hates women and rising levels of hate-crimes. In 2016, the Jewish Magazine the Tablet, in the wake of 10,000 Jewish people signing the Never Again Petition against Trump, the editors predicted Pittsburg Synagogue shooting before Trump was even elected. Trump, they wrote, is the candidate of the Mob, and the Mob always comes for the Jews. And so it has. My Jewish literary agent told me that since 2016 police are having to guard her place of worship in Florida, and several of my Jewish friends have had swastikas pushed through their door by the Trump empowered American neo-Nazis. Their leaflets looked little different from the ones put up in the 1920 and 30s, only the English language and the website at the bottom gives the game away.

Politicians lie. Trump says he is a Republican when in fact he is a Fascist, Mike says he is a Republican when in fact he’s a Dominionist religious fanatic. Political scientists use the term ‘fascist’ in defined ways, and Trump fits that description.

Policy-wise, Trump looks, speaks, and acts like a fascist–like an authoritarian nationalist. His policies reflect a fascist agenda. Just as fascism in Italy and Spain looked different from the German variety (nationalist being the key clue here) American fascism looks different from the German variety. It’s theocratic, for one thing. But it is fascism. The dismantling of what little social contact they have left, the scapegoating of minorities, the curtailment of women’s rights, the militarization of the police, the increase in violence and hate. That’s the reason–the real one–why Mike Pence couldn’t find a real rabbi to share a platform with, and had to rummage around on the fringe of the Jews for Jesus Movement to find someone to pray for the families of murdered Jews. Pittsburg marks the start of the burning times, again.

Trump’s golden age hasn’t arrived, has it. He’s given you more poverty, more hate, more violence, more evil, less liberty, less justice. He lied to you.

Fascists lie. Look at that.

Now to Trump’s Stalwart apologists in the pagan and kink communities (yes, they do exist) who rant off on every political thread about how Donny Littlehands Saved America and we should stop our crybaby nonsense?

This video appeared in my Facebook feed. Since Trump has asked you to imagine his name is on the ballot, it’s fitting to dig this up from 2016. And next time you try using European history to show why Donnie isn’t a fascist, you might want to have a look at what European political scientists are saying about him.

If you belong to this community as someone who needs the protection of equality and freedom of expression, bodily autonomy, and equitable treatment under the law in order to live a full and happy life, then you have no business supporting Donald and his Dominionist authoritarian nationalist chums. You have no business supporting fascism– and it IS real fascism — because you benefit from the liberal intellectual tradition, from open society without fear of persecution without Mr Pence and his chums coming to commit you to institutions where the kink and the gay are tortured out of you in hideous re-education programmes. You benefit from a free society where transgender women are free to walk down the street without fear of being raped and murdered. You benefit from real religious freedom (not the fake kind peddled by Messrs. Trump and Pence) that allow you to practice your spirituality without fear. You benefit from a society where women are not exploited and objectified. Everyone thrives in a society where the colour of your skin does not determine whether a random stop at a traffic signal will cost you your life.

Everyone benefits from the openness of civil society which allows Jews to be able to attend their places of worship without an armed guard.

Coming into our online communities and claiming that you are kinky, or pagan,  but also support the very people who would see us tried in Dominionist religious courts for perversion, makes not a lick of sense.

I get that the two-party system sucks ass, that the Democrats are greedy and corrupt, that you’re worried about the lack of social mobility, that Trump’s message is seductive — just like Hitler’s was. But you have the benefit of history to show you what happens if you allow fascist ideologues power. In the end, they will come for you, and yours. And then your problems will be a hell of a lot more than just some chick in Scotland saying “I told you so.”

Crossposted here.

 

Review: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

When I were a lass, we had Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena, Warrior Princess. Millenials seems to have to content themselves with Bite Me Harder Sookie Stackhouse and Hit-Me-Harder-Bella Steele. Sorry. Ana Swan. Damn. Dying Swan? Anyway, a bunch of doormat heroines.  So since I’ve been too tired to do anything beyond veg on the sofa following my accidental foray with the ghost hunters, I binged watched The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Teenage Witch. (CAOS). I have to confess, I’m somewhat hooked and I didn’t expect to be so.

My evangelical father and Catholic mother banned my sister and I from watching the sitcom in the 1990s on the grounds that it was ‘about witchcraft’ (I know. Irony abounds, that one worked out well) but I vaguely remember goofy love spells, funny aunties and a talking cat called Salem and a lot of canned laughter. A Teen 1990s version of Bewitched or I Dream of Genie. (Ah, the 1960s, where a woman could prance around in harem pants serving her husband with an Airforce Uniform fetish calling him “Master” and this was considered primetime family viewing.)

CAOS is something else. In the UK, it has a Certificate 15, everyone keeps their language clean and their underwear on mostly on for orgy scenes, but there’s heavy implication. It’s a little like Buffy, but (in my opinion) far darker in terms of a teen melodrama meeting a Hammer Horror. There are subtle tributes throughout the writing to classic fright flicks, and it seems that the writers are aiming to slaughter some sacred cows and serve them up as raw hamburger.

The opening credits do the heavy lifting in terms of signaling what this show is: it’s a comic book universe. The styles of clothing and palette of the entire set speak to mid-20th century, the teens do not carry mobile phones (indeed there’s a distinct absence of tech beyond a coffee maker and a dial telephone). There’s every indication that Greendale is not in our universe, and in doing so this means means (sorry Witchy friends) the witches in it are morally questionable people who worship the Devil, harm innocent people (though mostly in retaliation for persecution intergeneration blood feud style) and are religious fanatics of a deity who exploits them — especially women within their male-dominated coven who are forced to exchange freedom for power. When Sabrina tells other teen witches she wants both freedom and power, they laugh, telling her Satan will never allow women both because he’s ‘a man’. The Devil is depicted as a Hieronymus Bosch pastiche mean the way Christians imagine Satan and there is something awfuly Catholic about those repressed witches, despite all the sex references.

Wiccans watching will be disturbed to see five-pointed pentagrams (and not the inverted kind) on the brow of an idol of a horned diety, and the Aunts are religious fanatics into indoctrinating Sabrina in the “true religion” — which is  male-dominated and where women are second class citizens. Ouchie. Just remember it’s a comic book.  On the other hand there are delicious comic conceits. The Teen Witch forms a ‘coven’ in school for young women to fight sexism which forms an acronym that spells out W.I.C.C.A.(Women’s Intersectional Creative and Cultural Association), and the Satanic Choir manages to make Roger and Hammerstein’s most wholesome song sound eerily creepy without changing a word.

There are kink references throughout with excellent representation on pansexual, kinky and genderqueer characters, which made up for the fact that this is another teen drama about a blonde-haired white girl, and unusually for a first season the acting is passable with very strong performances, which makes up for some plot doozies (these witches are so badass that they can’t even ward their own house until the last minute and just leave their fingernail clippings lying around for any old demon to pick up. Really? REALLY?)

I think the best thing about this is the complexity of the character development, the treatment of consent (there’s a lot of manipulation and coercion from both the main Deity and his acolytes to get Sabrina to sign her name away) and about the patriarchal control of women’s sexuality. The ethics angle is subtle, but make no bones about it, this is a show with consent (spiritual, and sexual) at its heart and marrow.

And even though Father Faustus is so very, very bad . . . one cannot deny one gets a shiver watching him wipe down his riding crop.

What in the Sam Hain?: Pronouncing Hallowe’en

I don’t know who this guy Sam Hain is who keeps showing up at this time of year, but his name is not how you pronounce the word Samhain, the name of the Celtic quarter day that marks the end of the meat harvest and the beginning of winter.

All over the British Isles, the end of October and the start of November is the season of lighting bonfires and remembering the dead, and perhaps not coincidentally do Guy Fawkes Night and Remembrance Sunday (the European Memorial Day), fall within this season. Many folks are reverting to using Samhain rather than Halloween or All Hallows Eve in an effort to bring the festival back its older, pre-Christian roots.

I love this time of year. The air is scented with fallen leaves and gunpowder from the fireworks, children are excited about forthcoming candy, and I start planning a few weeks in advance. In Scotland traditionally children tell stories, jokes, or sing songs in return for candy and anyone coming to the door with a depressingly America ‘trick or treat’ on their lips usually gets mini tube of toothpaste in return with a witchy smile and a cackle of “I AM the trick, dearie.” Local children coming to my door know songs and stories will get you candy and stupid Christmas-cracker jokes will get you apples.

This year my lover and I are planning a little fire and some firecrackers (I’m afraid Guy Fawkes was just about the only man to enter Parliament with the right intentions, and burning him in effigy is the worst piece of anti-Catholic bigotry this side of Belfast on the 12th July, but a fire is Traditional.

Like many, I call this season Samhain, but Mr Sam Hain is not invited to my party.

Here is how you do the pronouncing.

Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic are related languages and have many different dialects, and so there are slight variations.

“Sam Hain” is not correct.

“Sama-Hi-Een” (the pronunciation used in TV Series True Blood) is not correct.

Sow-een?: Dubious. This pronunciation is most often used by English people and Americans who think they know how to pronounce “Samhain.” However, in some parts of Scotland Soh-un or Sah-un are used.

Classically, the medial mh sound is sometimes a soft “v” or “w” sounding phoneme depending on where you are. In Ireland, the standarised pronunciation is “Sow-in”, and in Scotland it can be “Sah-win” or “Sav-in.” And then there’s how your granny pronounced it depending on which Island she was from. I’ve heard some people saying “Sigh”. A friend of mine who grew up in New England tells me that somewhere in Massachusetts there is a “Savin Hill.”

Like many Scots, I pronounce it “Sav-in”, with a soft “v” that’s almost like an “f”.

So, how do you say it?

And what are your plans for the season?

 

Crossposted from Fetlife.com 

All the Background, Part One

A wonderful set of essays on sexism in the romance/erotica genres, by the American literary romance author Emily Barnard.

Works in Progress

Alphas, Abuse, and Normalizing Red Flags as Romance

While I’ve been writing since I was a teen, and reading Romance since around the same time, I’ve only been writing (what I thought was) Romance-with-a-capital-r for a few years. And those years have been an interesting time indeed.

Ask readers why they read Romance, and there are quite a few—and surprising—variations in responses. I’ve heard buzzwords like “escape” and “timeless.” A common refrain is “I want to believe in true love.” Readers also indicate a desire, a need, to read something that will conclude in a “happily ever after,” as a reprieve from reality. Psychological studies focused on cognitive reading even suggest that the very act of reading about women who triumph or whose activities and actions are prioritized by the text can help the readers themselves process feelings and ideas, even problem-solve.

Romance novel tropes, too, are powerful indicators…

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Domism: Role Essentialism and Sexism Intersectionality in the BDSM Scene

Archimedes said that if he had a lever long enough, he could move the world.  But where would he stand?  It would be nice if some subculture sat outside every negative social dynamic, every kyriarchal oppressive dynamic, in pristine isolation, free of taint.  It would be nice, but none can.  And so the things that are wrong with the world are wrong with the BDSM community, and more specifically, with the formal community, the organizations and public parties: the Scene.  

This is study in intersection.  Among this relatively small group who are non-mainstream in one very specific respect, there are repetitions of and reactions to the oppressive patterns of the larger culture, but they’re not entirely straightforward.  Partiarchal  and heterosexist pattern manifest in some ways, power dynamics reorient themselves along BDSM role lines in other ways, and those things interact in ways that are completely unique to the BDSM…

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