When Politics Meet Fetish?

Article Three
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any
time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned

  • (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds,
    mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
  • (b) taking of hostages;
  • (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
  • (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without
    previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording
    all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by
    civilized peoples. (from the Geneva Conventions)

Some of you who’ve read this blog for a while know that it’s not normally quite so focused on kink.  In fact, I began it so I’d have a space to write about politics and feminism and the like.  It’s kind of evolved into being about whatever is going through my head (scary as that thought might be). 

Reading Republican Rep. Christopher Shays’ bizarre comments calling the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse a "sex ring" — abuse that was "more about pornography than torture," I found myself wondering what Shays’ idea of "sex" must be like.  He later "corrected" or expanded on his comments saying,  "[o]f course, the degrading of anyone is torture. We need to deal with it."

Huh?  Can you repeat that again Mr. Shays?  Or then again, maybe not.

I’ve commented in the past that despite my love of role-play, prison and slave scenes aren’t my thing.  But even so, I do understand the attraction because I understand the fantasy of being helpless –of wanting to play a role that gives my partner total power over me.

That’s just it though.  While some writers in newspapers such as The Guardian might argue, as Adele points out here, that playing with images of torture for art (or just pleasure) is disrespectful and degrading to the victims as well as the photographic subjects, to do so (in my opinion) misses what real degradation is, and itself trivializes the reality of torture.   To denounce set-up fashion photographs, dramatic films or consensual BDSM play with the torture that happened at Abu Ghraib seems to be the ultimate dismissal of the real in favor of condemning superficial fictions.

What happened in  Abu Ghraib was torture and, again in my opinion, clearly about power.  There was nothing sexual in the guards actions or the pictures they took humiliating their prisoners.  The Abu Ghraib abuses were about real humiliation inflicted on prisoners who participated only because they feared for their lives.

Calling that sort of behavior a "sex ring" or the pictures resulting from it "pornography" is like condemning a rapist on the grounds that he’s committed adultery.  It trivializes and dismisses the reality of the crime.

Christopher Shays should be ashamed.  Sadly, his history leaves me suspecting he isn’t and that the point of why Abu Ghraib shamed America will forever be lost on him.

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