& Sexual Assault Final Exam
When writer Rebecca Walker was browsing the Internet’s alt.sex.bondage
discussion group, she was impressed by the writing of Polly Peachum and asked
her for a chapter to be included in Walker’s book To Be Real: Telling the
Truth & Changing the Face of Feminism. Peachum’s chapter was on the
pleasure of being sexually submissive in a contractually subordinate
relationship that only her Master can end, and it was deleted from the book when
Walker (who liked the chapter) bowed to pressure from her editors. The writing,
however, is available on the Internet as part of a ‘Submissive Women Speak Out’
project. Go to the following address and look for Peachum’s essay ‘Violence
in the Garden’:
The general goal of the paper is to reflect on whether and in what ways such
writings can inform the study of domestic violence and sexual abuse. You are
free to approach this question as you see fit, but I would suggest at least
touching on the issues raised by the following questions:
#1] Is Peachum a victim of domestic violence? What is your definition of
domestic violence and why does her situation fall inside or outside of your
definition? In what ways is Peachum similar to & different from other
instances of domestic violence and sexual assault we have studied this term?
#2] In the book Different Loving: The World of Sexual Dominance &
Submission, the authors start with a disclaimer: "D&Sers [those
into domination and submission] make a real and absolute distinction between
explicitly consensual acts between adult partners for their mutual pleasure and
all acts of violence against unconsenting partners. Imposing sexual activity on
a reluctant partner is morally offensive; imposing it on an unwilling partner
(or upon anyone who cannot give legal consent) is a criminal offense."
Does the consent remove the behavior from being ‘violent’? Does Peachum’s
explicit consent and her enjoyment of submission remove behaviors like this from
the realm of violence? Or does the consent and enjoyment make them more of a
#3] What is your definition of a ‘healthy’ or non-abusive relationship?
Why does Peachum’s relationship meet or fail your standard? Please make sure
to deal with her comments about the level of intimacy, communication, trust and
commitment that are in the relationship. Be sure your answer also deals with the
issues of control, humiliation, physical punishment and her inability to end the
relationship by her own choice.
NOTE: I will be looking for consistency in your answers to these questions.
If you think it is domestic violence, then you should find that the behaviors
are violent & that the relationship fails your test of health. Conversely,
how can you have a healthy relationship that’s not domestic violence when
Peachum describes herself as a ‘slave’ – a possession of another with no
#4] Do you agree with Peachum that her choices and relationship have nothing
to do with promoting other forms of violence against women?
This article raises many difficult issues and making sense of them is further
problematized because they are raised in the context of sexuality – indeed,
what many consider to be ‘kinky sex.’ Some understanding of the notion of
‘power exchange’ can be quite helpful in making sense of Peachum’s
relationship, which is an extreme form. I would thus recommend exploring some of
links on the page containing Peachum’s essay that seek to explain this
The book by Gloria Braeme, et al, Different Loving: The World of Sexual
Dominance & Submission is a recommended text for similar reasons. This
book is based on interviews with people involved in various aspects of this
sexuality. It is not a ‘how to’ book, but explores what people get out of
such relationships and has won awards from numerous sex education associations.
There were several other links suggested for background that are on the page for
the assignment about Pornography and Sex Work.
See also Sex And Race Play: On the edge of edgy sex, racial S&M excites some and reviles
Back to Class Schedule for Fall
2000 that this assignment was part of OR to current
Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault class page