A Thought on Verbal Abuse

The rise of social media pornography on sites like Tumblr (RIP, assholes), Twitter, and BDSMLR has led to a lot of what I think of as ‘recycled pornography’, where someone takes a porn image and repurposes it with their own caption. Overall I think it’s a harmless and even useful idea. It allows people to find new things in old images. I sometimes use it on my BDSMLR to comment on things about power exchange, safe play, and so on.

Inevitably, people use recycled pornography to project their own fantasies onto these images. One theme of this is verbal abuse. It’s not uncommon to find cases where the image is of fairly mundane vanilla sex (perhaps two guys fucking doggy style) with a capture that says something like “Fuck that faggot bitch and then shove him in the closet when you’re done with him.”

On the one hand, this isn’t a very harmful thing to do. The bottom in the photo is rather unlikely to ever see the repurposed image and so unlikely to be upset by it. But on the other hand, I do think there is a problem with this sort of thing.

Power exchange is relational; you can’t do it by yourself. Doms cannot dom themselves and subs cannot submit to themselves. The beauty and intensity of BDSM comes from the way power flows between those involved. Verbal abuse serves to heighten the experience of power exchange, so that dom and sub feel a wider gulf of power between them than they otherwise might. So when I call a boy a ‘faggot bitch’, I’m doing it with the knowledge that I am not just taking his dignity away, but that I’m also giving him something he craves, an experience of powerlessness, humiliation, and being less than me. To me, that’s the right way to use verbal abuse.

But that isn’t possible when I post a photo and describe the guy in it as a ‘faggot bitch’ or whatever. The guy in the photo isn’t receiving any pleasure or power exchange from me. He’s not part of this transaction at all. Instead, I’m just expressing my contempt for the guy in the photo. Instead of power exchange, what I’m participating in smacks heavily of homophobia.

By posting a photo and attaching a homophobic insult to it, I’m not engaging in healthy kink; I’m sending homophobia out into the world. As I’ve said before, the internet strips out the context from pornography. A tweet or BDSMLR post with homophobic language in it is indistinguishable from intentionally homophobic material.

So when you’re recycling pornography, please think twice about the way you’re using it. Even on a site like BDSMLR, where porn is the entirely context of the site, describing someone in a photo as a ‘fag*’ contributes to homophobia by giving homophobes more encouragement. Thanks to the Trump administration, we’re living in a time of rising violence against LGBT people, so we need to make sure we’re not adding fuel to the fire.

*I am not speaking here of gay men who choose to label themselves as fags. If you see being a faggot as an important part of your self-identity and describing yourself as such online helps you feel empowered, that’s your choice and I support your right to do so.

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