[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.
 
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