Tag Archives: racism

Editing the Vanilla Privilege Checklist

I’m still getting pingbacks on “Thoughts about Vanilla Privilege” saying “maybe, but as a POC/woman/queer, I also get shamed/victim blamed/commodified.” And, yeah, your possession of vanilla privilege doesn’t invalidate that or somehow make it less objectionable. What your vanilla privilege does do is make sure that the level of kink you desire/act upon is not a contributing factor to the shaming/victim-blaming/commodification. Which is nothing to be, like, overwhelmedly grateful for. But it’s everything to be at least fucking aware of.

I haven’t seen it stated formally anywhere else, but my definition of “privilege” is this: privilege on any given axis (be it class, race, gender, etc.) is the guarantee that the dominant culture won’t persecute you on the basis of your position on that axis. No one commits hate crimes against straight people, for example, so all of them have straight privilege regardless of the actual amount of violence any individual straight person has suffered. Being a victim in a differently-motivated hate crime does not mean that you don’t have straight privilege, it means that you quite clearly suffer from a different oppression.

With that in mind, this is my attempt to write a Vanilla Privilege Checklist. I modeled mine after Peacock Angel’s, which has been criticized for missing intersections between race/gender/sexual orientation and kink. (I would argue that a lot of hir statements with regards to the government and media availability are also western-centric).

But the ultimate problem with the original Vanilla Privilege Checklist is the same as the problem with a number of privilege checklists: it infers that the privileged people have all been given a set of benefits for being privileged on one axis without taking into account the fact that many “vanilla privileges” have been taken away from vanilla people on some other basis, like their race.

My checklist aims to refrain from making assumptions about vanilla people’s experiences. Instead, I focused on highlighting the ways in which vanilla people are not exposed to systematic oppression based on the level of kink they desire. Which is, somewhat redundantly, the reason they are privileged.

Most of the words are from this checklist; my corrections are made by crossing out the objectionable phrases and rewriting them in blue.

  • A vanilla person does not have to fear that discovery of their being vanilla will have an effect on their work life.
  • A vanilla person usually does not have to worry about the potential legal implications of sex in the manner they prefer with a the vanilla nature of sex they had with a consenting adult partner.
  • A vanilla person does not have to worry about their being vanilla as having bearing on whether they are considered fit to be parents.
  • A vanilla person doesn’t have to worry about their being vanilla being thought of as diseased or pathological.
  • A vanilla person will have an easier time finding depictions of people with sex lives similar to their own that are equally vanilla in the media.
  • A vanilla person will not have their sexual orientation called into question due to their sexual practices the vanilla nature of their sexual practices.
  • A vanilla person will have comparably easy access to reliable dealing with safety surrounding their sexual practices not be refused access to sexual safety information on the grounds that they are vanilla.
  • A vanilla person seeking medical attention due to an accident that occurred during sex will not face scrutiny or be treated unsympathetically because of the vanilla nature of their sexual activity.
  • Vanilla is not used as a pejorative. The word “vanilla” in this context will never be appropriated to mean “kinky but passionate.”
  • A vanilla person will not be assumed to be a sexual predator because of their vanilla sexual practices, nor will language used to refer to vanilla people as a group be used to describe rapists and perpetrators.
  • A vanilla person will have an easy time finding media that portrays people with their sexual preferences a desire for vanilla sex sympathetically and accurately will be easier to find than media that portrays kinky people similarly.
  • Vanilla people will never have their sexual practices the vanilla aspect of their sexual practices used for shock value.
  • A vanilla person does not have to worry about outsiders perceiving their relationship the vanilla aspects of their relationship as abusive or pathological.
  • Safe spaces for vanilla courtship and socializing are not privilege to legal harassment in the way BDSM clubs are.
  • A vanilla person will not have their being vanilla brought up during a rape investigation (either as accuser or accused)
  • Vanilla people can assume their relationship partners will not find their sexual arousal pattern the vanilla nature of their sexual arousal pattern disgusting.
  • A vanilla person will not fear their sexual practices the vanilla nature of their sexual practices counting against them in a divorce.
  • A vanilla person will not be asked about the origins of their sexual arousal pattern vanilla status, or have it assumed their sexual arousal pattern vanilla status stems from trauma or disease.
  • A vanilla person will not have to worry much about their roommate discovering their vanilla-ness.
  • A vanilla person’s actions will not be attributed to their being vanilla.  (Many people link people’s bad actions to their kinkiness, “Well of course he’s a thief, he’s kinky”)
  • Symbols of vanilla affection/romance will not be appropriated as “edgy” fashion statements (E.G. collars)
  • Discovery of equipment associated with vanilla sexual practices, provided they are otherwise privileged (condoms, lubricant, even a vibrator) although embarrassing will not result people’s drastically changing their opinion of the person in question.
  • A vanilla person will not have their masculinity/femininity called into question because of their dominance/submission in bed (I.E. A woman who enjoys being sexually dominant may be called unfeminine, or a man who enjoys being sexually submissive may be called unmasculine)
  • The discovery of a famous person having vanilla sex (provided it is within the other realms of privileged sex, monogamous, heterosexual, etc) Finding out that a celebrity prefers vanilla sex will not be considered news worthy.
  • A vanilla person’s sex related equipment (E.G. Condoms, lubricant, dental dams) will be regulated by government agencies and tested thoroughly for efficacy and safety.
  • Vanilla people can find numerous studies relating to their sexuality and sexual desire from the scientific community that do not treat them their vanilla status as marginal or pathological.
  • A vanilla person can count on the media to usually get the symbols associated with their relationships generally right (Here’s an example of the media getting it wrong, dominants generally don’t wear collars)
  • There is accurate medical research on the effects of vanilla sex upon the human body, kinky people are left with scraps here and there and anecdotal evidence.  We still don’t know if it’s safe to flog breasts. When researchers set out to study the effects of sex on the human body, they are thinking of vanilla sex.
  • A vanilla person will not worry about how their vanilla-ness reflect upon their gender, sex, sexuality, age group, etc etc etc.
  • A person’s political beliefs will not be called into question due to their being vanilla.  (For example, a heterosexual man who identifies as a feminist and acts as a good feminist but is sexually dominant may be told he is a bad feminist for enjoying a dominant role during sex, same for a heterosexual female submissive, or a sexually dominant woman may be called an angry feminist due to her preference for a dominant role during sex)
  • A vanilla person will have an easy time finding a counselor who understands and is sympathetic towards their vanilla status sexual practices.
  • Vanilla-ness is not vilified or exotified by the media (For exotification/vilification of the kink community check out basically any CSI/Bones/Law and Order type show with an episode that deals with kink, or numerous episodes of shows like 1000 Ways To Die)
  • A vanilla person can remain ignorant of terms involved in BDSM.
  • A vanilla person will not be assumed to be sexually experienced because of their vanilla-ness.
  • Vanilla is not taken to mean sexually available.
  • A vanilla person can go their entire life without being called vanilla.
  • As always, most importantly, a vanilla person can ignore their vanilla privilege.
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Weezer and The Trivialized Plight of the Straight, White, Young, Abled, Cisgender, American, Male…Loser

[Please note: this entire post deals only with the “later” Weezer. I really don’t know how you would go about fitting “The Sweater Song” into this pattern or, moreover, why the fuck you would want to.]

I’m not saying you can’t be all of the things mentioned in this post’s title and still have a hard life. I know that most of my friends who fit the straight/white/man/middle-class/etc archetype (yup, all two of them) certainly have bigger issues than those of this music video’s protagonist. But why aren’t they being addressed? Is there a reason that popular bands like Weezer focus on overcoming middling social status  but not…college debt? A disproportionately low life expectancy? The lack of awareness around female-on-male abuse/rape? Those are big issues that no man–over-privileged or no–is immune to. So why the fuck does Weezer write song after song about mostly-male, mostly-White people who need only to grapple with the fact that they aren’t quite as far up the social hierarchy as they could be?

My theory is that a lot of Weezer’s music works on two levels: kyriarchally, it doesn’t overtly challenge much. Women are status symbols only, few people of color are featured,  and the adverse affects of systems like patriarchy (like defensive masculinity) are never challenged at the root. This aggressive conformity, somewhat unfortunately, is one of the reasons Weezer is so palatable to a mainstream audience.

However, most of Weezer’s songs do speak of some sort of resistance and strength. Less commercially successful songs like “The Good Life (2004)” are more progressive in terms of gender roles, age, and–to a certain extent–classism (in so far as the music video highlights the monotony of one young woman’s job as a pizza delivery girl). But characters like her are never allowed to overcome their adversity. Most of Weezer’s popular songs highlight some sort of struggle by which a maligned protagonist gains strength and, very often, learns to abandon his oppressors. Of course, that charade seems a whole fucking lot less impressive when (as is the case for “Perfect Situation,” shown at the start of this post) the “oppressor” is a female band member and the abandonment leads to fronting a popular band, which is a needlessly privileged position.

But I still think that “Perfect Situation” and other–admittedly pathetic and contrived–narratives of a barely-downtrodden hero who learns to reject the vapid-bitch-who-doesn’t-go-for-nice-guys-like-him can be inspiring to radically-minded people of all genders. Because, in the end, there are very few success stories wherein the leading character finds fulfillment by outright rejecting the system that previously made them so miserable. The conclusion made by the (grossly constructed, to this feminist’s mind) protagonist to ignore the catty girl musician and move the fuck on with his life is shockingly similar to my own decision to stop dressing solely to look good for other people, stop engaging in conversations I didn’t want to be part of, stop deferring to my less-qualified-but-more-male peers and just live my life. Hopefully, any encouragement to think outside of the game you will always lose (be it attracting a beautiful girl or, you know, some actual oppression) will push others to do the same.

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On Being “Batshit Insane” and the Anatomy of a Slur

[If you are easily triggered by racist, ableist, or homophobic slurs you may want to skip this one.]

I was recently trying to write something on tumblr about this one radfem I know and love. It started out as an explanation of how oppression creates a false scarcity, pitting oppressed people against each other instead of the system by which they are marginalized. But it did, at some point, become necessary to mention that the radfem in question believed all sex between men and women to be rape. That is, I joked, absolutely batshit insane.

And then I stopped. As a person with PTSD, as a person with an anxiety disorder, with depression, as a person who used to be legitimately agoraphobic, I am arguably the most insane person I’ve met. So why is it that I attached a word commonly used to describe my own condition to someone’s fucking ridiculous theory? I am certainly not making any un-nuanced generalizations about male-female intercourse. In fact, I’m being a lot more cogent on this subject than she was, so why is it that I insult her by comparing her own theory to myself?

That’s just how slurs work. They can be applied to almost anyone, but they always reference a specific group of marginalized people.

This presents a weird sort of disconnect by which people (read: bigots) sometimes try to justify their usage of words like fag or n—. “But he wasn’t gay!” they protest, “and White people can be n–s too!” That right there is some steaming bullshit. Because the truth is that if slurs were really as disconnected from their original meanings as the people who use them would have you believe, they would look very different.

Non-oppressive insults that have etymological origins in a slur are not immediately recognizable as such. If I told you that you were “bad,” you would most likely have to reach for a dictionary before making any connection between the word “bad” and being intersex. So while “bad” did evolve from the Old English word for “hermaphrodite,” bæddel, it certainly doesn’t have that association now. The ordinary English speaker would not make any connection between the word “bad” itself and people with ambiguous genitals. Tell me that Black people are separated from the n-word to a similar extent. Just fucking try.

The other way you can tell that a slur is still a slur, and not a generally acceptable insult, is that the slur will denote specific stereotypes associated with the people it’s based off of. You can call a straight girl a dyke, sure, but the function of that isn’t to shame her for an inherent quality, it’s to compare her to a queer woman (and thereby make her ashamed). This is because “dyke” invokes all sorts of qualities our culture associates with female queerness: gender-nonconformity, “non-normal” sexuality, aggression, lack of “befitting” sexual interest in men, etc. For a straight woman, being called a dyke is offensive because she *is* attracted to men, and because of systematic homophobia she knows that our culture values her heterosexuality. So she feels devalued when someone calls her a dyke after she’s turned him down sexually, for example. This doesn’t do her nearly the same amount of damage that it does an actual queer woman, who is devalued do to an unchangeable facet of her personhood whenever she is called a dyke.

And that, I think, is why it’s so important to reserve the reclamation of a slur for the group of people that specific slur (in and of itself) refers to, regardless of who has been called what. Because it’s actually a shorter order. Instead of applying the word randomly, we can just focus on robbing it of its negative connotation, while keeping the functional definition (“dyke = queer woman,” for example) intact.

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