May 25, 2013

"What is to be done about the low scholarly standards in the analysis of sex?"

"For all their putative leftism, gender theorists routinely mimic and flatter academic power with the unctuous obsequiousness of flunk­ies in the Vatican Curia," says Camille Paglia, reviewing 3 recent books about sadomasochism. As you might expect from Paglia, there's a lot in this piece about the limitations of post-structuralism, and how gender-studies folks need to learn more about biology, ancient cultures, and religion, but what got my attention was the detail about the sort of people that go in for these BDSM activities. Summon up a picture of the men and women who would be into this sort of thing. Then read this:
[Staci] Newmahr ["Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy"] captures how her subjects, even before they entered SM, viewed themselves as "outsiders" who lived "on the fringe of social acceptance." Most are overweight, but it's never remarked on. Several women are over six feet tall, generally a social disadvantage elsewhere.... Some men are small-statured or have vivid, angry memories of being bullied at school. Newmahr notes the "pervasive social awkwardness" in the scene, the "ill-fitting, outdated clothing" and the women's lack of makeup and jewelry. The men often have little interest in sports and own cars of middling quality.

... Newmahr [notes the] "affinity for complicated techniques and well-made toys." ... Newmahr recognizes an operative aesthetic of "geekiness as cool."
Is that what you pictured?

61 comments:

ndspinelli said...

edutcher, Your thoughts?

Saint Croix said...

I love Paglia, she's so awesome.

Saint Croix said...

Gender-theory groupthink leads to bizarre formulations such as this, from Weiss's introduction: "SM performances are deeply tied to capitalist cultural formations." The preposterousness of that would have been obvious had Weiss ever dipped into the voluminous works of the Marquis de Sade, one of the most original and important writers of the past three centuries and a pivotal influence on Nietzsche. But incredibly, none of the three authors under review seem to have read a page of Sade.

Smack, smack, smack!

Did you enjoy that, you damn stupid leftists?

Saint Croix said...

Leftists are bottoms.

rhhardin said...

Nobody did a better analysis of the sex lives of pigeons that Paglia.

Maybe online? yes

''Sex is metaphysical for men, as it is not for women. Women have no problem to solve through sex. Physically and psychologically, they are serenely self-contained. They may choose to achieve, but they do not need it. They are not thrust into the beyond by their own fractious bodies. But men are out of balance; they must quest, pursue, court, or seize.... How often one spots a male pigeon making desperate, self-inflating sallies toward the female, as again and again she turns her back on him and nonchalantly marches away. But by concentration and insistence he may carry the day. Nature has blessed him with an obliviousness to his own absurdity.''

Saint Croix said...

Paglia is a pagan who's been to Catholic school.

To avoid any ripple in the smooth surface of liberal tolerance, therefore, flogging, cutting, branding, and the rest of the menu of consensual torture must be assumed to be meaning-free—no different than taking your coffee with cream or without. (These books approvingly quote BDSM players comparing what they do to extreme but blatantly nonsexual sports like rock climbing and sky diving.) Weiss's neutrality here would be more palatable if she were indeed merely recording or chronicling, but her own biases are palpably invested in her avoidance of religion and her moralistic stands on economics.

Brilliant, just brilliant.

somefeller said...

Is that what you pictured?

Yes, or more accurately, it's what I expected. Good-looking, well-adjusted people don't need to dress in strange outfits to be sexually alluring or aroused. They can do so for a lark, of course, but not as a necessity.

Saint Croix said...

Nature has blessed him with an obliviousness to his own absurdity.

Yes! I curse the day I became self-aware. Son of a bitch!

somefeller said...

And it's nice to see Camille Paglia is back. Must be part of that whole 90s revival I've heard about. Soundgarden is back on tour also.

whoresoftheinternet said...

Avowed homos should never be allowed to opine publicly about sex and taken seriously. That's like a schizophrenic opining on the wonders of his invisible friends and how they're actually real. Just sick, disordered individuals who belong in institutions blathering nonsense to justify their disordered mentality.

Enjoy the decline, perverts!

n.n said...

So, dysfunctional or "fringe" behaviors are adopted by confused men and women. I suppose this can be tolerated, to an extent, but why would any decent man or woman support its normalization?

somefeller said...

From the article:It seems like centuries ago that, as a graduate student in 1970, I was vainly searching for a faculty sponsor for my doctoral dissertation, later titled Sexual Personae, which was—hard to imagine now—the only project on sex being proposed or pursued at the Yale Graduate School.

These kids today, they have it so easy! I remember when I had to walk three miles uphill in the snow just to find one article about the Marquis de Sade. And now they can just find piles of them on the Internet, and they don't even look!

n.n said...

Has anyone coined the sadomasophobia term? I wonder how much leverage that would enjoy.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I always assumed that people into sadomasochism were just desperate to keep sex going for as long as possible.

Saint Croix said...

Rarities reported by Lindemann include a "leprechaun fetishist" and a client "aroused by a Hillary Clinton mask."

LOL.

G Joubert said...

Newmahr recognizes an operative aesthetic of "geekiness as cool

Julie Newmar was always hot and geeky too in a way.

Saint Croix said...
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Saint Croix said...
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Saint Croix said...
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Dave said...

"whoresoftheinternet said...
Avowed homos should never be allowed to opine publicly about sex and taken seriously.... Just sick, disordered individuals who belong in institutions blathering nonsense to justify their disordered mentality."

Clearly the voice of someone with first hand knowledge of "blathering nonsense to justify their disordered mentality."

Dave said...

"whoresoftheinternet said...
Avowed homos should never be allowed to opine publicly about sex and taken seriously.... Just sick, disordered individuals who belong in institutions blathering nonsense to justify their disordered mentality."

Clearly the voice of someone with first hand knowledge of "blathering nonsense to justify their disordered mentality."

Saint Croix said...

What makes Paglia awesome is her hatred of Foucault, and leftism in general, but particularly what it's done to the academic search for truth. Paglia is a serious scholar who follows her obsessions wherever they take her. She likes sex, she likes religion, she likes art. I love all those things. I don't always agree with her, but man she is interesting to read.

My conclusion, after wide reading in anthropology and psychology, was that sadomasochism is an archaic ritual form that descends from prehistoric nature cults and that erupts in sophisticated "late" phases of culture, when a civilization has become too large and diffuse and is starting to weaken or decline. I state in Sexual Personae that "sex is a far darker power than feminism has admitted," and that its "primitive urges" have never been fully tamed: "My theory is that whenever sexual freedom is sought or achieved, sadomasochism will not be far behind."

Sadomasochism's punitive hierarchical structure is ultimately a religious longing for order, marked by ceremonies of penance and absolution. Its rhythmic abuse of the body, which can indeed become pathological if pushed to excess, is paradoxically a reinvigoration, a trancelike magical realignment with natural energies. Hence the symbolic use of leather—primitive animal hide—for whips and fetish clothing. By redefining the boundaries of the body, SM limits and disciplines the overexpanded consciousness of "late" phases, which are plagued by free-floating doubts and anxieties.

Big Mike said...

Paglia is what liberals used to be but never will be again.

Bender said...

And for all the merits of her criticism of leftism, by her gratuitous slam of the Vatican, Paglia shows herself to be as dim-witted and ignorant as those she criticizes.

Big Mike said...

History is a narrative; every narrative is a fiction; objectivity is impossible, so who cares what's real and what's not?

Hmmm. This may explain why so few graduates are any good at mathematics or engineering these days. Objectively speaking, now and forever, 1 + 1 = 2.

Unless you're doing Boolean algebra, in which case 1 + 1 = 1.

Dave said...

"Althouse posed the question ...Is that what you pictured?"

The common portrayal of S&M as chic and sexy has been pervasive in our culture. But their are occasional works that show the sad, "socially awkward" aspect referenced in this posting. It was portrayed in an episode of NYPD Blue (Tom and Geri, 1997) and in the film "Secretary." I'm sure there are other examples.

Renee said...

Yes.

Rabel said...

Latex Mustang is a way better SM Sex Club name than Carpet Guy.

What would Althouse's SM Sex Club name be?

The Bloginatrix - awkward.
Ms Madison Mean - maybe.
Professor Pain - possibly.
The Leather Lecturer - no, probably taken.
The Badger - meh.
The Wisconsin Whipper - I like it.

Saint Croix said...
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Lem said...

Is that what you pictured?

My encounter with a couple in the city back in the 90's fit the descriptions. But I don't know what the description necessarily says about their proclivities.

wyo sis said...

Althouse already coined her own name
Cruel Neutrality.

Sam L. said...

Is that what I imagined? Tall women in high boots and leather bustiers with whips and chains....

Sorry bout that, Chief.

Saint Croix said...

by her gratuitous slam of the Vatican, Paglia shows herself to be as dim-witted and ignorant as those she criticizes.

Paglia was raised Catholic, and she describes herself as half-Catholic and half-pagan. I think she's an atheist?

But she loves Catholic art. She loves the symbolism of Christianity. She loves to study religion and to think about it. She talks about it all the time. She thinks religion--like sex, like art--is one of the most important topics in the world to study and think about.

But that doesn't mean she's always going to write like a devout person!

gender theorists routinely mimic and flatter academic power with the unctuous obsequiousness of flunk­ies in the Vatican Curia

I can see how that might be annoying to Catholics. But of course she is actually aiming her fire at "liberals" who are actually quite hierarchical and respectful of power and authority. And note too that she's accusing them of worshipping another god.

Paglia often bemoans how religion has been replaced by a secular religion, and she complains how empty and barren this new "religion" is.

Chip S. said...

Is that what you pictured?

To the extent that I pictured it at all, I shared GJoubert's inclination to picture a leather-clad Julie Newmar.

Why the hell would anyone think about ugly people?

Saint Croix said...

Paglia:

Men are run ragged by female sexuality all their lives. From the beginning of his life to the end, no man ever fully commands any woman. It's an illusion. Men are pussy-whipped. And they know it. That's what the strip clubs are about; not woman as victim, not woman as slave, but woman as goddess.

wyo sis said...

To answer the question...
Yes
People with the ability to have normal sex don't get caught up in deviance.

ricpic said...

Men are absurd, women are boring;
Ergo the quest for variety: whoring.

Saint Croix said...

You don't read Paglia for her theories on religion. Or if you do, you're going to be unhappy. Paglia is not, by any stretch, a great religious thinker--or even a religious thinker at all.

She writes on human sexuality, all the time. And so her writings on art and religion are all through the prism of human sexuality.

Which makes sense. I mean, to ignore religion when thinking about human sexuality is insane.

That's a major criticism she has of these books. All these writers are ignoring religion--and sexual repression--as they write about bondage and discipline and sadism and masochism. That's crazy!

What makes Paglia jump up and down bonkers insane is this liberal idea that sex is just sex, and it doesn't mean anything.

Drago said...

Big Mike: "Paglia is what liberals used to be but never will be again."

Because they're not "liberals" anymore, they're leftists.

The entire gender/race etc studies departments at the University level were not created as a forum to study specific subject matter areas with scholarly rectitude.

They were created as citadels of leftist political thought and power.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

When you read some of the more (and there is a helluva lot of it) insane and completely unsupported pap being offered up in the afrocentric studies departments where nonsense such as "Egypt conquered Greece" and "Greece stole all it's ideas about science and objective analysis and political freedom from Egypt" and Aristotle obtained all his knowledge from the Library at Alexandria etc, you know all you need to know.

Drago said...

Saint Croix: "But of course she is actually aiming her fire at "liberals" who are actually quite hierarchical and respectful of power and authority."

There is no one group of people more respectful of hierarchies and respectful of power and authority than leftists.

Their entire reason for existence is to create the superstate that controls every aspect of your life.

Try and get one of them to say something bad about Castro or any other left wing totalitarian.

You'll be waiting a long time...

ricpic said...

A lot of the tension in Paglia is that her iconoclasm is always performed in the presence of her own internal censor. As a lapsed Catholic it couldn't be otherwise. But it's good that the tension is there. Lacking that you get the triumph, if you can call it that, of those who forbid UGLINESS. Which is to say thought, discrimination, this is good that is bad thinking. Once that's been killed no more Paglias, no more West, no more glory. Only TOLERANCE. Forever and forever and forever and SHUT UP!

Saint Croix said...
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Jay Vogt said...

Couple of things:

I try pretty hard (and with considerable success) not to think of BDSM "types"

Ms. Paglia is almost always worth the read. Often enough though some of her sentences just flat out baffle me. "For all their putative leftism, gender theorists routinely mimic and flatter academic power with the unctuous obsequiousness of flunk­ies in the Vatican Curia... is an excellent example

How can any of these kinds of studies rise to the challenge of academic rigor? Sure, they're kind of interesting anecdotes and stories, but the biases in the "study" are blatant, material and uncorrectable. At minimum they contain selection bias, observational bias, time-frame bias, survivor bias, estimator bias and detection bias. And that's just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Why does every single publication from an academic press have the same freaking title structure; "Lame Pun: The Impact of Something on Something Else"

Palladian said...

You just know there's a latex bodysuit, a bottle of store brand baby powder and an eviscerated tube of Preparation H lurking in whoresoftheinternet's bureau drawer!

Saint Croix said...

Still more Paglia...

the cynical disdain for religion that permeates high-level academe must end. (I am speaking as an atheist.) It is precisely the blindness to spiritual quest patterns that has most disabled the three books under review.

She's talking about religion, of course. But "spiritual quest patterns" might also be a reference to psychiatry. (Another Paglia rant is how feminism dismisses Freud).

Why do we behave the way we do? Religion can answer that. Psychiatry can answer that. And Paglia is very interested in the question, so she talks about religion and psychiatry when she talks about sex.

Liberals do not!

Thus these books seem empty to her. And the fun sex stuff is ruined by academic jargon and Foucault. It's nihilism disguised as intelligence. And I suspect what really upsets Paglia is the lack of passion in these books.

To me, sex without passion is empty. And eventually it will be boring. (This might explain the desire for weirder and weirder sex, until that too is boring).

But to arrive at that thought, you first have to ask the question "why?" You have to care, and wonder, and pursue it. And apparently these authors are too bored, or decadent, to bother with such a provincial question. But why is an interesting question, is it not? Not just interesting, but the basis of all scholarship.

virgil xenophon said...

Helluva lot of great comments here, but I'll glom onto St Croix's comment that: "To me sex without passion is empty." by adding that they've not only removed the passion; they've removed the sex as well, leaving only anti-male violence, best expressed in Bush's tag-line lament in Everything Zen: "...there's no sex in your violence, there's no sex in your violence.."

William said...

Outside of that one weekend when I deflowered the Olson twins, my sex life has been fairly bland and vanilla, so perhaps I shouldn't comment. I've got nothing against BDSM, but I seriously question whether a sex act so premeditated, self conscious, and scripted can qualify as an act of passion. Sex is silly enough without all those weird outfits.

Saint Croix said...

And Catwoman is nice, but there is only one Emma Peel.

n.n said...

Women, and men, want it all, and in the end they will have nothing.

Evolution is a chaotic process. It is not unbounded. The natural order does constrain the activities of causative entities, including humans, within its domain.

People dream and act to circumvent nature's order, and they succeed, for a time, but they also force a divergence, which, as it happens periodically throughout history and the world, ensures a dysfunctional convergence.

The dysfunction is building and its convergence will require a massive correction. This phenomenon is not unlike the buildup of latent energy in the atmosphere which eventually causes the development of tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.; or, in the case of humans, a world war.

This is the anthropogenic disruption which should really concern people.

Inga said...
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David said...

"Is that what you pictured?"

I nailed the cars of middling quality part.

David said...

"Robert Draper, the author of “Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush,” perused the library with me and observed: “So 43 grew up entitled but could display a commoner’s touch, while 44 grew up hardscrabble yet developed this imperial mien.

Yeah, it was hardscrabble for Barack. Other than living with the grandparents who provided him with elite private schools, a nice home, a pleasant Hawaiian life, support, love, money and security.

Barack was abandoned by both his father and mother. (Why she would send away while she pursued her hippie desires when the father had already left is beyond me.) So I'm sure that was--and is--difficult.

But hardscrabble? Jesus, give me a break.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Is that what you pictured?"

Yes, exactly.

AlanKH said...

Reading that article is sadomasochism.

AlanKH said...

Sadomasochism seeks to erase affection, and thus humanity, from sexuality. Is there really anything more that needs to be said about the subject?

Zach said...

... Newmahr [notes the] "affinity for complicated techniques and well-made toys." ... Newmahr recognizes an operative aesthetic of "geekiness as cool." Is that what you pictured?

Honestly, yes. You are literally connecting the mastery of esoteric knowledge and complicated procedures to sexual power. Instead of being sublimated, it's now explicit. For a certain kind of geek, that's nirvana.

Second, the far reaches of any activity will begin to resemble geeks in personality, even activities that would seem to be at odds with geek stereotypes. I joined a triathlon team one time, thinking that it would be a way to break away from the physicist stereotype. Instead I found that there were huge numbers of physicists, CS majors, etc. Even the pros tended to have that background. Basically, whenever you start reaching the level that requires intense emotional investment in activities that most people don't care about, you get geeklike behavior.

Douglas said...

Joke I heard in 9th grade:

Masochist to Sadist: "Hit me!"
Sadist: "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

Mitch H. said...

Yes, actually, but I have observed them in... not action, necessarily, but the usual public regalia at conventions. They're a geek subculture, by and large, and not a particularly high-status one, either. About the same level as the furries, really, who have many of the same inverted hangups.

Also, they have a reputation for carelessness and destructive behavior, they're not very aware of their surroundings or their potential for damage to said surroundings. Picture Daisy and Tom Buchanan in dogcollars and leashes, minus most of the money. They tend to smash up things and ... retreat back into their vast carelessness.

Tina Trent said...

Paglia's good fun to read, and she actually introduces students to bits of western civilization further away than their bellybuttons. But she helped create this academic dystopia, even though she's critical of some of it. Declaring transgressive sexuality and violent perversion "liberation" while using campus speech codes and sex tribunals to attack peers for thought crimes and "rapes" -- all this lunacy emerges from the same source, the dismantling of traditional academic subjects in favor of "oppression studies" and especially sexuality studies. I recently met a gaggle of grads from my alma mater, and they told me that they were all polysexual and that they were "challenging gender normativity" and agreed that believing you were naturally heterosexual is a delusion. Ironically, to these types, mere homosexuality is now also officially a delusion, too plain vanilla for the gender constructivists. These poor idiots (who were going off to elite grad schools) were incapable of ordinary rational thought and were so grotesquely narcissistic that they believed that studying their own imagined sexual "chioces" is the ultimate form of liberation (thus also defining themselves as oppressed peoples and defining the rest of us as their oppressors, which is the real point of all this claptrap).

Tina Trent said...
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GloriaBrame said...

I can only assume that the anti-SM overtones here derive from the same academic narcissism that afflicts Paglia. The normalization of sadomasochism is the correct scientific approach, along with the normalization of homosexuality, transgenderism, lesbianism and all other so-called sexual perversions whose constructs are purely the product of religion and Victorian ideology.

Paglia's seeking relevance by critiquing those who have tried to do the work to reconceptualize sadomasochism -- where's her work in the field?