[personal profile] flexibeast
i've debated whether to write this entry; enough angst has arisen from this topic as it is. In the end, though, i decided that my LJ is place where i should be able to vent, and to make clear exactly where i stand on various things.

Over the last couple of days, i've been involved in an online debate over the use of the word 'vanilla' to mean "a person not into bdsm". Yes, i've written about my feelings on this before. And [livejournal.com profile] not_in_denial recently wrote a defence of the term. i understand where people such as [livejournal.com profile] not_in_denial are coming from.

But i, personally, still find the term offensive.

And although - please note carefully! - i have no problem with other people accepting it as a label for themselves, and i will use that word to describe them if that's what they want, i would ask that people not use the word to describe me.

i feel that that word still carries too many connotations of 'plain', 'boring' or 'pedestrian' - not so much in the bdsm community but in the wider community - for me to be happy with it. It's like the word 'hacker' - even though, in the FOSS community, it's generally used with the meanings described in the previous link, the mass media so often uses it to mean "people who breaks into computer systems illegally" that i don't use it for myself, because it's way too easy for people to draw the wrong conclusion from it, and i really don't want to have to be explaining what i really mean all the time. (Although admittedly, i wouldn't be upset if someone used the word 'hacker', in the first sense, to describe me.)

i also think that the fact that bdsm people seem to so often need to explain what they really mean when they use the word 'vanilla' - that they're using it purely descriptively, that it's not intended as an insult - perhaps indicates just how widely and easily the term is taken to have an insulting and/or condescending meaning.

The reason i'm bringing this up yet again is that i am unhappy about some things that happened during the debate i mentioned above. i was not the one that flagged issues around the word; but i did make a joke about how i'm clearly 'vanilla' since i'm only "a queer poly transgendered swinging witch for whom sexuality is a central part of hir spirituality . . . . ;-)" And i thought that would be the end of it. But a couple of people decided to basically tell me that i should just get over my dislike of the term and learn to love it, because it's a useful descriptive term, and also because it's supposedly not saying anything more than "this is just another flavour of sexuality" (and thus apparently not value-laden in the way that i believe it to be).

Now the above makes it clear that i have my own opinion regarding the use of the word 'vanilla' to describe me, and bizarrely enough, i think i'm entitled to my feelings, that it's not anyone's place to tell me how i 'should' feel about it. i also think that it's reasonable of me to ask people, if they respect me and care at all about my feelings, to use and not use certain words to describe me. Then, too, i understand that 'vanilla' is indeed a convenient shorthand to indicate the fact that i'm not into bdsm - but on the whole, i would prefer another term to be used as shorthand ('non-bdsm', perhaps). Finally, i take umbrage at any notion that being concerned about the labels people use to describe me shows that i'm immature: labels can often imply attitudes, and attitudes can have unpleasant real-world effects (heterosexuals who use the word 'fag' to describe gays are often willing to indulge in not only verbal, but physical abuse, against gays). True, labels can often be 'reclaimed' (which i guess bdsmers who use the word 'vanilla' descriptively are contributing towards), but that takes a certain amount of strength, time and effort, and not all of us are willing and/or capable of making that effort for every label applied to us. So i feel that it's not totally outrageous of me to refuse to take on a term whose negative connotations are still widespread.

Fin.
 

Date: 2006-08-17 02:36 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cheshire-bitten.livejournal.com
I find myself agreeing with both yourself and [profile] not_in_denial in differing situations, most of the time when I see vanilla it is only being used as a useful descriptor and that is the way I feel that I use it, I might say to my partner that I feel like vanilla sex tonight.

I think what you are finding is a general fucknutier in the BDSM community, I recently read a debate on wether or not men could really be submissive, the general consensuses was that no, because “men are born to lead, women are born to follow”, these kinds of groups within the kink community do think they are better than “those vanilla people” because they are living the one-true-lifestyle, and I understand frustration with that subset of the bdsm community.

I have a general feeling that people should be able to choose what ever labels they want for themselves (although I do get annoyed when people try to co-opt words for there own which blur the original meanings of the words which other people are still using, I know a number of lesbian iding women who still sleep with men, which I suspect adds to the cultural belief that all women are bi-sexual, even those who say they are not.) So I will try to use vanilla positively for my self (As in so I have been having some great vanilla sex recently) and remember not to use it to describe you.

Date: 2006-08-17 05:53 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flexibeast.livejournal.com
I think what you are finding is a general fucknutier in the BDSM community

Well, interestingly, the people who made the initial criticisms of my position actually describe themselves as 'vanilla' (at least to some extent) - so the problem wasn't with bdsmers at all.

I know a number of lesbian iding women who still sleep with men, which I suspect adds to the cultural belief that all women are bi-sexual, even those who say they are not

*nod* Yes, i see what you mean; although, personally, because i distinguish between 'relationship orientation' and 'sexual orientation', it makes sense to me that some woman who only want, er, not-just-sexual? relationships with other women might nevertheless be interested in boinking men.

So I will try to use vanilla positively for my self (As in so I have been having some great vanilla sex recently) and remember not to use it to describe you.

Thank you, much appreciated. :-)

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