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Ottaviano, Maa and the Post

December 4, 2008

The Post, a rag so bad I warn my friends that reading it kills brain cells, predictably takes the nasty sensationalist angle:

His secret leather-loving lifestyle – seen on photos posted on fetish Web sites – turned out to be his downfall.

Wrong. Here’s the story: stalker client kidnaps a pro-dom, kills her boyfriend, then himself. Neither his, nor her, “secret leather-loving lifestyle” killed or harmed them. A violent, entitled, bitter nut did that. (And why was their “leather-loving lifestyle” “secret”? There were apparently pics of him, in drag, at clubs, with his partner, who worked as a professional dominant. Some secret.)

Two BDSMers, both bright people with lives and friends, went through hell; one is dead, and all because some guy thought he was entitled to have a woman all to himself like property. But that’s not news. That’s the same old story.

I didn’t know any of these people. But their purpose in life was not to act as cautionary tales or sell papers. My heart goes out to Maa, for all she’s been through, and I’m sorry for her loss. And my heart goes out to Ottaviano’s friends and family and his colleagues at Paul Weiss.

Updated: on Jill Filipovic’s post over at Feministe, the inimitable piny, as so often before, puts it better than I can:

The sensationalist coverage isn’t just turning BDSM into a vector for violent death. It’s providing misinformation about what this kind of abuse is and how it works.

Yes. This is about violent, abusive men stalking women. The BDSM and sex work aspects are worse than a sideshow. They are a distraction form an important story.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. lee permalink
    December 4, 2008 12:47 pm

    thanks for posting this, thomas! i think it is soooo important for folks working against violence to be vigilant in calling out the mainstream (and i include a lot of institutionalized rape crisis services in that) in perpetuating myths about BDSM.

  2. December 4, 2008 1:00 pm

    Two BDSMers, both bright people with lives and friends, went through hell; one is dead, and all because some guy thought he was entitled to have a woman all to himself like property. But that’s not news. That’s the same old story.

    I was just reading that the man who murdered Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew, her sister’s estranged husband, was motivated by jealousy because she had started dating again.

    So, yes, same old story. If I can’t have you, no one will, bitch.

  3. December 4, 2008 1:17 pm

    Also, the sex work issue: I’m sure some folks will protray this as being about sex work, and it is surely true that (some kinds of) sex work expose women (and some men) to violence from clients at higher rates — as Zuzu points out, the violence of jealous, entitled men is such a common theme that I think that probably overwhelms any sex work specific issue. If she had topped men only for fun and not for money, would she still have played with this stalker, and would he still have felt like he owned her? We can’t know that; but there are so many men who stalk, harass, beat and kill their intimate partners for reasons having nothing to do with BDSM or sex work that I think it’s just wrong to put those at the forefront of any analysis of what happened here.

  4. December 5, 2008 8:48 pm

    Ugh ugh ugh. Sigh. Thanks for highlighting this.

  5. December 15, 2008 8:47 am

    Just to put the “New York Post” story in context, I hope we all know that the only reason the “Post” ran the story was to have a semilegitimate excuse to run cleavage-intensive photos of an Asian American woman (the kidnapping victim) in a sexy outfit on their cover.

    The story wasn’t even a local news event – it happened in the Philadelphia suburbs, the stalker/kidnapper/murderer was originally from that area, the woman was originally from Long Island but had lived in the area for years and the murdered man was from Buffalo originally, had briefly worked in New York but had lived in Metropolitan Philadelphia for a long period of time also.

    Since it was not in any way a local news story, neither the “New York Daily News” nor the “New York Times” nor “Newsday” saw fit to cover it.

    So, not only did the “Post” trivialize the very real issue of men stalking their ex partners and/or people they’re sexually obsessed with, and misrepresent the BDSM and sex worker communities, they also presented Asian American women as objects of White male sexual fetishization, rather than as flesh and blood human beings with feelings, hopes, dreams and fears.

    Also, just like they did in the Tawana Brawley case so many years ago, when a woman of color is allegedly the victim of a sex crime, she loses the anonymity that a White woman in the same situation would automatically have in the media.

    Had the victim in this case been Caucasian, you can bet that the Post would not have ran her picture, or her name, or gave detailed biographical information about her home town, the current location where her parents live and what college she attended.

    But she’s Asian, and as a woman of color has no rights that mainstream journalists are bound to respect, so all of that was considered fair game for the story!

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