Title

Pain Management: Navigating Feminism, Masochism, and Disability

Publication Date

April 2016

Advisor(s)

Jonathan Cutler

Major

Sociology

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

I work through various theories and texts to build my argument. However, I also use my personal experience as a way of explaining my own understanding of the issues and as a case study or example of how what I am talking about has played out in real life – my life. Throughout the piece I interweave theory, personal testimony, and analysis of both to come to the conclusion that is my argument. The argument of my thesis is that important for feminism to incorporate an acceptance and understanding of masochism and BDSM (sub-argument: that it currently doesn’t) in order to promote a departure from and to fight against both compulsory heteronormativity/heterosexuality and compulsory able-bodiedness Feminism must acknowledge the potential of masochism as mode of queering disability (sub-argument: masochism can be connected to the intersection of sexuality and disability, and we can understand this connection by changing our conception of pain and applications of pain), and the importance of queering disability itself as part of an intersectional feminist agenda. The piece is made up of three sections. The first is a critique of feminists’ and feminism’s treatment of masochism and BDSM. Looking particularly at sex positive feminism, which on the surface seems to support masochism, but in reality is hypocritical, apologetic, and halfhearted. The second, section uses personal testimony and narrative form to look at how masochism can operate as a form of self-care, and how changing our conception of pain generally, as well as applications of pain, can help understand masochism, disability, and their relationship. The final section examines how incorporating an acceptance of masochism and BDSM into feminism can help create a better approach to the intersection between sexuality and disability, as well as the importance of a feminist politics that includes queering disability as part of the agenda. Ultimately, the thesis as a whole is my exploration through the issues and topics as they have effected me and as I have come to understand it, at time using both critical analysis and personal testimony to get at what I understand as true. The voice is often personal and full of personality, and it is also often a little detached and formal. The style is more traditional is some places and more creative and unorthodox in others. As a whole, this is a piece of creative writing to be sure, and as a piece of creative writing I believe it holds just as much weight, if not more, than any conventional analytical essay. In a way, the form of this piece does the work of the writing: it complicates traditional understandings and, well, attempts to screw normal.

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