Bound to Struggle: Where Kink and Radical Politics Meet
Volumes 1 and 2, ed. Simon Strikeback
28 and 32 pages respectively, at half-letter size, $2 each from Stranger Danger Distro
It’s pretty hard to explain why you like something to someone who doesn’t share your tastes— whether it’s death metal or tiger tail ice cream or bondage. Bound to Struggle takes a stab at bridging the gap between politically radical people who are into BDSM, and those who share their politics but not their sexual proclivities. It also aims to foster community among radical perverts.
Simon Strikeback put together Bound To Struggle when, as he puts it in the introduction to Volume 1, he “looked around and saw that my community, my crew, was made out up of people who were, for the most part, radical activists, who were, for the most part, tremendous perverts.” He wanted to put together a zine to show that this is not a coincidence and not a contradiction.
Bound to Struggle is an interesting read for anyone who wonders how it makes sense to spend your days fighting oppressive power dynamics and your nights having fun with them. The contributors to this zine take a strong line that “playing with power and the abuse of power are worlds apart”, a notion that becomes clear to contributor Michelle O’Brien when she sees her lover getting beaten by police during a protest.
In O’Brien’s cogent and moving piece, she writes about how the appeal and political potential of kink and BDSM came from their being “sexual codes that weren’t reducible to genitals”. As such, they were ways for her to come into her own sexually in a way that, being trans, she had never felt able to:
“It was in sex, more than anywhere, I learned about myself. My repulsion from most genital-based sex begun to make sense, and I started to sort out other forms of desire and possibility. If my body would never be normal, never have quite the right genitals, never fully fit into the regime of properly sexed humans, what could pleasure mean? I needed new languages of sensation and intimacy to understand how I could be attractive, how I could give and receive pleasure, how I could live my body with others”
Throughout the two issues of this zine, kink and BDSM are associated with a sense of boundless possibility. Olive Green writes about how her interest in kink allows her to see the possibilities of the people and places around her and to make fewer assumptions about the people around her.
JD, who teaches rope bondage at Two Knotty Boys in San Francisco, contributes a useful piece about how to talk to people about BDSM who find it offensive or oppressive. He gives advice about how to respect their histories and experiences (e.g. of sexual violence) and encourage them to respect yours.
In Volume 2, Margo Miller writes about her rough trade fetish dovetails with her academic interests in gender. In “Rough Trade for Tranny Fags”, she writes about finding it hot to pick up straight men in bars and have them suck her strapped-on cock. She writes about who and what counts as rough trade:
“In this context, anyone who turns you on because there’s something you don’t know about them— you don’t know if you trust them or not, you can’t tell what they’re thinking, you don’t know if they consider themselves gay or straight, or if they’re the kind of person who might all of a sudden harm you— is rough trade.”
Her piece is written in a fairly academic style, which is not my favourite, but I like her idea of expanding the notion of rough trade to encompass more of what is interesting about sex and people and life.
C. Deadprince contributes a really interesting and valuable piece on transmale misogyny. She relates an experience with a lover who sexually harassed her friends and refused who respect her sexual boundaries and ground rules. She stresses that it’s important not to take that shit from anyone, regardless of their gender or how they got there.
So, while it might not make a convert out of you if you aren’t into BDSM, this zine goes a long way towards making the subculture intelligible to those of us to whom it doesn’t especially appeal. If you’re interested in knowing what kink is all about and why its importance to people goes beyond being a novel way of getting off, I would recommend Bound to Struggle as an interesting and varied jumping-off point. Seasoned pervs will probably also find lots to enjoy here too.
- Lily Pepper