Occasional “Alas” guest-poster Clarisse Thorn has written a science fiction short story, “Victory,” about a mayor who enjoyment of BDSM gets outed when her movie-star ex-husband releases a sex tape. The story includes depictions of consensual BDSM sex, and separately, of rape. It also makes an explicit parallel between lgbt rights and BDSM rights that’s certainly given me food for thought.
The solidly-built man behind the overlarge desk nodded. “What can I do for you, Mayor?”
Serena gave it to him straight — it’s what I’m good at. “I’d like your endorsement.” Nick stroked one finger down a blue slider, tapped twice. She suspected he was firming her voice; the suspicion was confirmed as her own words sounded through her earbuds, half a second later.
“Ah. I thought you might call.” Riley steepled his fingers — haven’t seen that gesture before, she thought. Practicing our fatherly image, are we, Governor? “Let me be honest. You’ve got great perspective and it’s been good to have your support opposing this universal surveillance nonsense — the so-called ‘Neighborhood Safety Act.’ But you must be aware that I’ve been promoting myself as a family man.”
“Exactly. That’s why you can help me so well against Barnhart.”
He looked at her over his glasses. “I’m up for re-election myself.”
“Governor Riley.” Leaning forward, she discreetly used her left arm to haul her bad arm upon the desk; elbows bent, she interlaced her fingers demurely. “I know you never campaigned for queer liberation.” Nick’s hands flickered in the sea-colored glow of his screens. “I can see why sexual freedom wouldn’t seem pressing. You and your husband are established. Respected.” Her target was watching warily, but he hadn’t interrupted. “So maybe queer history isn’t a big deal for you. But the S&M Old Guard was at Stonewall, last century.”
The equivalence drawn between BDSM rights and LGBT rights seems strained. Are people being arrested for practicing BDSM, the way the patrons of bars like Stonewall were arrested merely for being gay or lesbian? Are S&M practitioners denied the right to marry, or singled out for bashing or murder? If I were the governor in the above scene, I might find a (apparently) heterosexual mayor trying to pull that equivalence to be presumptuous rather than persuasive.
But at the same time, I don’t believe the equivalence argument should be relevant. Prejudice against people who like BDSM (I’m not sure what the right term to use is, but I’d welcome being told) doesn’t have to be identical to any other bigotry in order to be a valid issue. That the prejudice exists, and is unfair, and hurts people, is enough.
Ignoring political pressures (as the folks in Clarisse’s story seem to do, by and large), the Governor should decide to support the Mayor because he thinks that prejudice against someone for liking BDSM is wrong, not because he’s gay.
I also found it funny that – even though an anti-privacy law called “The Neighborhood Safety Act” is a looming menace throughout Victory - the Mayor protagonist seems not at all bothered by the thought of millions of constituents watching a video of her having sex – it’s just her enjoyment of S/M being outed that bothers her (she even arranges to have a different sex tape, showing herself receiving oral sex, released).
Anyway, feel free to used this thread to discuss any issues raised by Clarisse’s story.