Epstein: The Eroticization of Domination and Women’s Fight for Freedom

Epstein: The Eroticization of Domination and Women’s Fight for Freedom

Jocelyn Crawley reflects on the objectification, domination and abuse of women and girls. She highlights the importance of feminist theory and the right for women and girls to live free from abuse and dominance. 

Epstein: The Eroticization of Domination and Women’s Fight for Freedom

By Jocelyn Crawley

Recently, a close friend of mine and I became deeply engaged in a dynamic dialogue regarding the persistence and pervasiveness of the contemporary regime which perpetuates systems of hierarchy and hegemony: white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. During the discourse, she encouraged me to watch the documentary on Jeffrey Epstein and his role in sustaining a sex trafficking regime. After viewing the 60 Minutes documentary “Exposing Jeffrey Epstein’s International Sex Trafficking Ring,” I found that my mind was drawn to analyzing his nefarious, necrotic activity through the lens of an important feminist theory: the eroticization of domination.

Those who are unfamiliar with Jeffrey Epstein should know that he paid underage girls hundreds of dollars to provide him massages and proceeded to sexually abuse them. The abuse transpired in many places, including homes in New York, Florida, and Palm Beach. As a hedge fund manager, Epstein’s wealthy status, associations, and access to shrewd legal representatives enabled him to allude severe sentencing for his activities. For example, in a 2008 non-prosecution agreement, Epstein was able to plead guilty to charges in Florida for the solicitation of prostitution involving a minor. The ‘victims’ in question were children who had been sexually exploited for profit.  With the 2008 non-prosecution agreement, Epstein served a mere 13 months through a work-release program. When he was later met with more severe charges, he killed himself.

Feminist Analysis.

As many radical feminists have argued in analyzing how the patriarchy structures ‘relationships’ between men and women, the system of relations is predicated on the eroticization of domination. Although defined diversely, the eroticization of domination essentially references the process through which the patriarchy structures the system of sexual relations between men and women. In essence men expressing their sexuality by controlling and subordinating women. Within this system, women (generally speaking) come to naturalize and accept dominance as an integral, inalienable, and inevitable component of sexuality. For this reason, normative conceptions of female sexuality incorporate the idea of one being violated, humiliated, or repeatedly having all types of psychic and physical boundaries broken.

In her article Eroticized Dominance-Emotional Grooming, Predatory Behaviors As Cultural Norms?, Athena Staik notes six key components of sexual relations marked by eroticized dominance that  are particularly pertinent to the forms of patriarchy actualized by Jeffrey Epstein. The first is the idea that the main pleasure the perpetrator acquires results from causing emotional pain to the other. This process involves tricking or manipulating the victim for one’s own gratification. In viewing the documentary, I noted that Epstein was able to make his sex trafficking ring functional by informing young women that he would pay them to provide him with massage services. Once in his home, he had them provide him with massages but then proceeded to sexually abuse them.

This type of manipulative, deceptive behavior reflects not only the principles of domination, but also the process of male objectification of women.

Within this schema, women are no longer viewed as thinking, emotive beings who bring their own thoughts and preferences to human interactions. Rather, they are reduced to entities whose thoughts, feelings, and volition can be ignored for the purpose of satisfying the male fantasy. In short, Epstein’s praxis of deceit to lure women into his home for the purpose of sexually abusing them works to create a system of relations between men and women in which the latter lack sexual agency and authority. Additionally, the system of relations ensures that sexual activity between men and women is not predicated on empathy and mutuality but rather the former ruling the latter. This system of domination diminishes the likelihood of equality between the sexes and continually recreates a world in which female objectification is presented as a normative, natural way for women to exist.

The second element of eroticized dominance that Athena Staik references in her article pertains to an individual being viewed as “a weak or defective object without feelings, thoughts, opinions, etc.” This principle is prevalent in many of the actions and attitudes of Jeffrey Epstein. I was particularly drawn to two examples of it. The first was the fact that Epstein’s master bedroom contained prosthetic breasts.  . In addition to doing harm to real female bodies through his trafficking ring, Epstein reworked the material reality of a woman’s physical form to become something that he could toy with, without having to with the real female human who possessed the breasts.

In my conceptualization of Epstein’s activity, he has observed and isolated a component of women’s bodies in a fetishistic manner that precludes him from having to deal with women as whole humans.

Women who have breasts yet are not just this one body part. In Epstein’s world, women repeatedly become their body parts; he was fine with removing them from the realm of material reality. He recreates them as prosthetic toys so he could handle without a living, thinking entity being part of the sexual process.  According to Staik, eroticized dominance creates a system in which “sex is a weapon for personal gain to prove superiority via dominance (versus a key aspect of emotional intimacy in a couple relationship).” As I analyze Epstein’s appropriation of prosthetic breasts, I concluded that he  actualized this principle of superiority through dominance by creating the prototypical system of relations in which men are subjects and women are objects.

Within this schema, Epstein can use his perverse imagination to invent and control how he relates to femaleness. In his mind, femaleness or womanhood involved not only sexually abusing real women but reducing them to non-thinking body parts which he could control. This component of the eroticization of domination is distinct from the objectification referenced in the previous paragraph because, in this component of the schema, objectification is no longer just objectification but rather the foundation or building block upon which domination is established.

In Epstein’s toxic mimicry of humane sexuality, superiority was actualized through his ability to dominate the other.

He perpetuated the system by reducing real female bodies into synthetic objects which could not protest or resist his advances. Those who are familiar with the diversity of Epstein’s sexual depravity may be aware that when his home was raided, authorities found child pornography and a stash of lewd photos stored away in a freestanding safe. These realities are also representations of both 1. objectification and 2. objectification as the springboard through which domination is attained. I think it also goes without saying that Epstein’s selection of victims as young as 12 years old is an example of the eroticization of domination insomuch as these individuals lack the emotional maturity, intellectual development, and physical power necessary to interact with him as sexual equals.

Reflecting on Epstein’s depravity and dehumanization of women, I found myself ruminating on the importance of presenting ourselves with alternatives to the modality of domination. Considering systems of relations that include parity, mutuality, and empathy. One thought that gained traction in my mind while pondering alternative modalities was the fact that people typically present two suggestions as solutions for domination: practicing love or cultivating individual and institutional freedoms.

Love and the fight for freedom.

Love is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection for another. It is an ethical, sustainable way to interact with others. However, prototypical schemas of love do not necessarily facilitate liberation from domination, or freedom. Rather, love embeds one in a system of relations with another individual who is viewed as an equal (or as having innate value and thus commanding respect) rather than freeing one from the dictatorial, oppressive grip of a malevolent individual or institution through which the subject has been reduced to an object. Although defined diversely, freedom is typically construed as the ability to speak, think, and act without restraints or hindrances being imposed on one by another. I posit that freedom exists but, because collective consciousness has yet to demonstrate an intense love for freedom, systems of domination are able to persist.

I conclude that cultivating a love of freedom, which involves being intentionally and continually in allegiance with thought systems and resistance movements that relentlessly fight for liberation, is the modality through which the current regime of domination can and should be contended.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Jocelyn Crawley is a radical feminist who resides in Atlanta, Georgia. Her intense antagonism towards all forms of social injustice-including white supremacy-grows with each passing day. Her primary goal for 2020 is to connect with other radicals for the purpose of building community and organizing against oppression.
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George Floyd’s Murder: An Act Of White Supremacy

George Floyd’s Murder: An Act Of White Supremacy

The United States is built on a foundation of slavery and indigenous land theft. Racism is deep in the bones of this country. Where there is oppression, there is resistance: the ongoing Minneapolis rebellion against the white supremacist state and police murder has spilled out across the U.S. Deep Green Resistance stands in solidarity with principled resistance by any means necessary.

George Floyd’s Murder: An Act Of White Supremacy

By Jocelyn Crawley

One of the first things that came to my mind when I learned of George Floyd’s ruthless murder was a social theory, typically used to analyze the ideology that undergirds patriarchy: the thought of domination.

According to radical feminists such as Monique Wittig, the thought of domination involves the idea that the ruling class produces the ruling ideas.

These ideas come to support the ruling class’s dominance over all of the other members of society. Within this schema, the thought of domination entails assent to the ruling class (men) imposing limiting ideas on the servant class (women). One of these ideas is the notion that there are two categorically different sexes and that these distinctions entail sociological consequences.

One of the sociological consequences is the naturalization of the division of labor in the family, with this belief functioning as a catalyst for the cult of domesticity and male dominance of the public sphere.

As made plain by this brief summary, the thought of domination ensures that those in power (men) keep those who lack it (women) in a position of subservience and slavishness. Within this type of societal schema, women are vulnerable to and subjected to diverse forms of dehumanization, some of which include rape, domestic violence, pornography, and prostitution.

Dominance and dehumanization:

In addition to functioning as an accurate analysis of how patriarchy works, I believe the thought of domination is directly pertinent to the white supremacist act we witnessed when white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for seven minutes while he was lying face down on the road. The video footage of the incident shows Floyd groaning and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.” After moaning while lying motionless near the foot of the squad car and being transported into an ambulatory vehicle, Floyd died. The only sense that I can make of this inhumane behavior is that the perpetrators have adopted the dominant society’s values of venerating domination as a desirable way to exist in the world because it enables one to become the abuser rather than the victim of abuse. Within a world predicated on a thought of domination in which whites are the ruling class and can therefore impose their rules on all other racial groups, the abuse they subject black people to frequently goes unquestioned and unpunished.

Lack of consequences:

In recognition of the fact that being a member of a ruling class oftentimes precludes one from experiencing repercussions under the law, the outcomes of George Floyd’s murder should be carefully considered if we are to truly understand how white supremacy works. All four officers involved in the event were terminated. Yet the question that persists in the minds of many protestors is: “Why wasn’t Chauvin arrested?” This was the same question that I came to ask myself after I learned that Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael, and William Bryan pursued Ahmaud Arbery in a truck while he was running through the neighborhood. Many are familiar with the footage displaying Ahmaud Arbery stumbling to the ground after being shot while Travis McMichael stood by with a shotgun.

Many are familiar with the horror and fear this murder generated in the black community as we realized, once again, men of color are subject to being shot by the police and arrogant white men within local communities. Many are familiar with the stories of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice. What many of us are not necessarily familiar with is the logic that makes this heinous, inhumane behavior acceptable. This is why I propose that members of radical communities engage the thought of domination as the ideology that undergirds white supremacy.

It is clear that the primary system of thought that fuels and justifies the type of incomprehensible violence, we see as a product of white supremacy, is the thought of domination.

Domination is defined as the exercise of control or influence over someone or something, or the state of being so controlled. In a contemporary world whose zeitgeist is guided by white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy, domination is and must be an integral component of the cultures in which people are immersed.

Principles of mutuality, reciprocity, and cooperation may periodically flourish or temporarily gain traction in people’s minds and actions. However, making the regimes of white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy work requires that individuals recognize and respond to the realities created by those regimes. The reality that the regimes require is that an elite few exert extreme power over the masses, and that the masses respond to their own oppression by amassing as much agency and authority to themselves as possible while they grapple with the dehumanization and self-alienation engendered by the systems of oppression as distinct entities and a composite whole.

As one distinct component of the contemporary regime, white supremacy is predicated on the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially blacks.

Based on this false notion of superiority, whites come to believe (whether consciously or unconsciously) that they have a right to dominate society. When I read about horrific stories such as those of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, I am convinced that the thought of domination is operative. I have no other explanation that would help me understand why a man would place his knee on another living, breathing human until he was no longer living and breathing. I have no other explanation that would help me understand why one individual would continue holding his knee on another living, breathing human as he begs for his life. When I learn that one white man holds his knee on a black man’s neck and continues doing so despite the latter repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe,” I am convinced the former has unequivocally embraced the logic of domination. In a world marked by this perverse logic, the murder of a black man is acceptable because whites are superior and any threat to their own safety-whether real or imagined-is more important than black life.

In recognizing the reality of white supremacy and the logic of domination that suffuses and energizes it, individuals who find injustice intolerable must begin to revisit whether the strategies of resistance that have been conceptualized and implemented at this point are working.

If they aren’t, we need to refocus our energies. At this point, I am seeing a wide range of social media campaigns as a strategy of resistance. I have also seen footage of a street protest. Recently, I became aware that several demonstrators gained access to a police precinct in Minneapolis and set some sections of it on fire. There are also now reports of vandalism, arson, and looting. While I do not doubt the importance and efficacy of the levels and extent of resistance seen thus far, I also see that white supremacy-manifested through police brutality-remains resilient in the face of resistance. For these reasons, I have two suggestions for the resistance movements that are unfolding strategically or organically.

First, the agitation against the state must increase. I noted that a tent has been placed outside the home of the attorney handling George Floyd’s case (Mike Freeman) and several protestors claim that they aren’t going anywhere until Freeman prosecutes and charges the officers involved. I think more space needs to be occupied so that state representatives become aware that protestors are not retreating into their private worlds while the public realm remains a sphere dominated by white supremacist ideologies and praxis.

Second, individuals across the country and world who oppose this state violence should join forces and make the resistance movement a more tight-knit process. I am aware that NYC-based Black lives Matter activists are heading to Minneapolis to protest the murder. This is the type of solidarity that we need to see in order to ensure that the authority and agency that results from mass resistance engenders a profound shift in cultural consciousness and state activity.

As always, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

Jocelyn Crawley is a radical feminist who resides in Atlanta, Georgia. Her intense antagonism towards all forms of social injustice-including white supremacy-grows with each passing day. Her primary goal for 2020 is to connect with other radicals for the purpose of building community and organizing against oppression.
Featured image: Minnesota State Patrol on May 29th, by Lorie Shaull, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.