Julie and Mike are into sadomasochistic sexting. Which among these emojis is most likely their ‘safe emoji’? Why?
Before we go on to qualify and determine which of these would most likely be their safe emoji, let us first generally define sexting, look into its sadomasochistic variant and later examine the purpose of such acts.
The advent and rapid progression of technology has opened up new ways for humans to express and act on their sexuality and desires. Sexting usually involves the active participation in the receipt and transmission of sexually charges messages, either in the form or a combination of: text, audio clips, photographs and/or videos between two consensual parties. Sex-ts in recent times are usually sent through various social media platforms such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, Telegram and the likes. There are also specific websites that allow for such exchanges and a little while ago, internet chat rooms were the best discreet options that allowed for more anonymous exchanges (See the impact of removing personal ads on Craiglist here).
Sadomasochistic sexting simply involves the integration of sadomasochistic elements into the world of virtual communication. Sadomasochistic sexting largely removes the actual physical infliction/receipt of pain, less of course the visual stimulation and acts of affirmation to prove subservience, but capitalises on attacked / having the mental state ‘disturbed’. This would largely involve some form of humiliation either through verbal degradation or physical acts (that need to be recorded) that are traditionally proven and seen in-person but can now be done remotely. Regardless, the interlocutors derive sexual pleasure or gratification from the infliction of, or being inflicted by psychological suffering.; the very purpose of participating in such sadomasochistic acts.
With such platforms popping up and increased ease in transmission of media (sound clips, images and videos), boundaries of willingness, and by extension consent, in sexting can be a tad bit clearer. The permanent blocks illustrates this clearly; a block means total unwillingness and rejection of (further) participation in sexting. Therefore in this sense the absolute “no” is therefore arguably clearer, if not at least for cases of unsolicited sex-ts. Granted though, this can be circumvented through new account creations and reversible account blocks, this is where cyberlaw comes into play demarcating the harmless and sexual harassment.
However, consent remains tricky to demarcate when sadomasochism is involved where the idea of ‘no’ is less clear; could mean to be a spur to continue or a refusal all at the same time. As such, with traditional sadomasochism exchanges, safe words (that may have a gradient of encouragement) are implemented. Much like the traffic light colours, green means go / permission granted, yellow indicates some discomfort but the ability to continue whilst red indicates the complete discomfort and unwillingness / inability to continue. This however is rather unnatural and disruptive to the flow of conversation which may totally kill off any momentum built; a turn-off to the mood and setting. The blurriness is further exacerbated with the increased use of emojis which are arbitrary icons and as with language may carry different meanings cross-culturally.
However, I propose that the following emojis to be used in combination in communicating consent (or the lackthereof); the ones Julie and Mike most likely use:
The ‘okay’ emoji (rightmost) very explicitly shows agreement with whatever the interlocutors are subjected to in that particular instance. Okay carries the meaning of acceptance or agreement, regardless of willingness/reluctance. This may mean that whilst the receiving party, for example, does not agree to being subjected to the “abuse” or degradation, they are able to fully tolerate and still be able to derive pleasure and gratification. Why this works is because, in sadomasochism, a power play has ensued; there is an inherent difference in power for the dominant party (often the ‘torturer’) and the more passive party (often the ‘recipient’) – therefore the course of the ‘act’ is steered in favour of the dominant party’s proclivities and turn-ons. Such things may or may not align between both parties and are therefore negotiated. Therefore, the inflicted may be subjected to things not to their liking. However they still pull through because it is not enough to break their goal of pleasing the other party without any hesitation or hindrance.
The exclamation point emoji mirrors the amber light for traffic lights and is often used for warnings. There is some cultural conditioning of course that makes readers be more alert and wary of there being something requiring attention. This emoji essentially means ‘be careful, you are treading on thin ice’. In terms of acts/degradation, there is noticably more disagreement and discomfort than the person is willing and able to do. As with warning labels, engaging or prolonging these acts may make the act less attractive and does less for the person sexually. Since it does not encourage the act to prolong further or increase in intensity it is still not a complete halt as its effects are still negotiable and tolerable for the recipient.
The complete halt, a perhaps the defining emoji to indicate a complete stop, the main purpose of a safe word, would be the palm emoji (leftmost). Again with traffic road signals, in the event of traffic light malfunctions, the universal signal to stop is by using the palm. Therefore, as such, is more easily understood. I concur that with the concept of ‘no’ being more muddled with sadomasochism and alternate emoji can be used to imply no but spur the other party to continue which would be the ‘talk no evil monkey’ emoji:
The reason for putting forth this emoji a the counter-intuitive ‘no’ is because there is an inherent quality of playfulness, that is negotiated through its cute depiction, using a largely accepted mischievous animal in place of a human. This makes the palm emoji good as the safe word because it is plain and simple and there are less plausible visual cues which might indicate a deceptive ‘no’.
As such, Julie and Mike most likely uses the palm emoji as their safe word.
Stripping everything else down, being sex-positive minimally involves an easier acceptance of normative deviants (of any kind) including sexual orientation, differing subscriptions to the various sexual activities as well as frequency and quantity of sexual acts and their associated partners. If not, some tolerance. (*coughs and clears throat*) A good parallel to draw would be the concept of racial harmony in Singapore). Often neglected would also include the ownership of sexual health responsibilities dampened by notions of looseness and promiscuity. This also may mislead others to thinking that for such sex-positive people, consent is not required which is untrue. This is of course an idyll almost utopic concept because true and total acceptance is difficult to attain given our subjectivities and biases (outwardly or otherwise). Whilst, I am all for the positive message of acceptance and love, there are some implications of sex-positivity.
Sex-positive proponents essentially fight for neutrality in that which anyone’s autonomy should not be questioned and accepted. This is problematic because of the intersectionality of what it fights for and the oppressive hierachies / tendencies (see: patriachy). Also, through a feminists’ lens it may mean an overzealous agreement to all decisions surrounding sex due to the inherent empowerment it brings about as the choices taken are those that society tried to deny them; some sort of a win. This is difficult because the auto-acceptance leads to the fallacies including assumptions that such choices are merely individualised and that one can be absconded from brooding over the larger social ramnifications of their actions. This discourages critical discussions and evaluations of choices of which one should be more valued and on what terms and that makes such choices seem like mere illusions, without meaning or value. This “everything has a spectrum” approach deludes people to think that we can absolutely remove any impacts of socialisation when it comes to decision making; but we cannot.
Next, there is no actual universality to the empowerments derived from sex-positivity, empowerment will still remain individualised. The argument being put-forth here is strangely that there is no “black and white”, that a choice is complex and its evaluation is largely situational. Sex-positivity these days are often without conversation or critical discourse which makes it a problem. The movement unknowingly perpetuates heteronormativity with its (straight) men-pleasing tendencies. This is because a large chunk of the movement is a defence of how sex-positive proponents are not anti-sex and man-hating as they may be made out to be. The most in contention within sex-positive feminism being penile-vaginal sex (to the straight man at least), inadvertently reinforcing this to be the norm, pulling it backwards for the LGBTQ+ agenda.
Also, its attempts to normalise everything and anything is worrying including kinks. It is essentially a sweeping under the rug of inherently problematic issues with some kinks (see: paedophilia and rape). This is essentially a “get-out-of-jail-free card” that those who have such kinks as they just cannot help themselves. Those that question them are quickly dismissed off as discriminatory and damaging. The reality is that kinks are toxic and may see the undermining of one party (usually misogynistic) and abuse and subjugation happens which should not be so readily accepted. Kinks are not all inherently equal (yes, this sounds so ironic to every human is created equal), and those that oppresses any minority should be held in contention.
Overall sex-positivitity is an over-simplification of highly complex problems. It unintentionally promotes the silencing of victims, victimisation, and encourages misogyny. It all but undo all the good work feminist put in for approval from (straight) men.