Feminism. Art. Porn. Sex.

The Sexually Submissive Feminist
July 4, 2010, 8:27 pm
Filed under: Art, Feminism, Sex | Tags: , , , , ,

Old art done one especially horny day.

Yep, I’m a feminist. Yep, I’m sexually submissive. Yep, I’m a masochist. Yep, I fantasise about boys and girls tying me up and making me cry.

For several years, I have gotten increasingly interested in BDSM and as I have become better educated on it, it is becoming more integrated into my sexual expression and vocabulary. On the one hand, my interest in it seems to disturb and alienate some folks, on the other I am relatively new to it and so far only practice what I consider to be comparatively light BDSM with my partner. Though often my desire is to try more intense stimulation, I like to take this stuff slow so I can be aware of my comfort zones. So, I’m hardly an authoritarian voice, but this stuff is important to me so I’m going to record my current thoughts on it.

I am not going to write this article in a way that attempts to be inclusive of the extremely diverse BDSM community – I am writing this article from my very specific, very personal perspective as a feminist female who identifies as predominantly sexually submissive with a sprinkling of switch. Please keep comments (if indeed there are any!) respectful and remember I’m not pretending to be an expert.

Admitting I’m sexually submissive.

Ever since I can recall the first fluttering of sexual feelings (though I did not fully understand them to be so at this age) my sexual fantasies primarily revolved around submission. I remember, at a very young age, sitting in the school playground, watching while some of the “naughty” kids played pirates – the boys would kidnap the girls and tie them to the trees. I wanted so badly to be one of those girls but my parents were feminists and I felt that game was sexist. So I never played. And I never stopped fantasising.

Later, in my relationships, I would spend a lot of time hoping my partners would be more sexually assertive with me and in fact I introduced some forced fantasy play into our sex life – but this did not always make my partners comfortable and I had my own hang-ups about it. At this point, I did not have a language to articulate my desires properly nor a way to express them and as a result, often felt conflicted and guilty for not being happy with more gentle sexual play.

I actually spent a lot of time trying to teach myself to enjoy the things I was told were healthy and positive. I tried to concentrate my fantasies on a softer sort of sensuality, one that seemed more female friendly – you know, candlelight and rose petals. I tried everything to avoid fantasising about the things that made me a bad person. Guess what? A big part of my sex life was spent feeling unhappy and unsatisfied. I knew sex was important but I came to think of myself as something broken and I came to relate sex to something rather frustrating and unfair – there didn’t seem to be a way for me to find proper satisfaction.

And over the years, as I learned about too many of my female friends being victims of sexual abuse and rape, I felt a sick, blinding, frustrating, helpless rage at the perpetrators of violence against my friends. I also started to feel deeply, horribly awful and guilty for my own dark fantasies. As a result, I started to push my fantasies deeper and deeper inside myself.

But, like my sexual awakening with orgasm, moving to a city with a variety of different people in it really opened me up to new experiences. I met people involved in the BDSM community and we started having conversations about all sorts of fabulous things – consent, communication, fantasy, safety and so on.

In fact, meeting people from the BDSM community gave me a sense of sexual agency and assertiveness about my own desires that I had previously suppressed. Though my experience with BDSM is relatively new and inexperienced, I want to discuss some of the things it has helped me understand.

Submitting in the bedroom is not submitting to the patriarchy.

It is often suggested that women who want to be sexually submissive have just internalised misogynistic, male centric codes of sexual conduct. But isn’t that, well, really fucking patronising? Isn’t it incredibly offensive to deny women ownership of their own sexual fantasies? It’s like saying that there’s no way a woman could have sexual fantasies of her own, that they come from men because women are empty vessels who only learn what to like from men. Hell, even if women have learned what to like from men, does that mean we should just never enjoy ourselves, lest we cross over to the dark side and dance the patriarchy tango? Oh yeah, and isn’t it also very heterocentric? I fantasise about submitting to other women and that’s not about replicating old heterosexual codes of conduct, it’s about me getting my rocks off.

When practicing BDSM, we are not simply re-enacting established misogynistic forms of sexual expression. When I ask my partner to slap me, it’s because I want to feel the intensity of his touch, when I ask him to tie me up it’s because I want to feel sensations of exposure and helplessness, when I ask him to dominate me it’s because I want to have the intense, screaming orgasms I get from seeing that triumphant look of power in his eyes. But it’s not about him being a man and me being a woman, it’s about us being us. In every aspect of life we are equal and sexually it is exactly the same. We give each other what we want. Shameless, sexy contentment.

This is not to say that there aren’t misogynistic BDSM practices and those can bother me (though my fantasies often revolve around women being degraded, they’re always in the context of fantasy). However, to discuss BDSM and fantasies as if they are in the same realm as the rape and abuse of women is offensive. It’s offensive both to careful, considerate practitioners of BDSM and to women who have experienced real abuse.

Submissives aren’t weak.

People who are sexually submissive are often seen as people who are weak. This is not the case and I think it’s a misogynistic attitude as people often relate sexual submissiveness to femininity. This is a load of hogwash, there are plenty of submissive men who are no less men for wanting to have their bottoms spanked.

Besides, has nobody ever heard of topping from the bottom? Has nobody heard of safe words? When I play with my partner, if he ever accidentally goes too far or I’m just not in the right mood, I have a word I can use (my word is “autumn” because that word is pretty!) and if I use that word, he stops instantly. That’s right, he can have me tied up and be standing over me with a giant whip made of doom but the moment I say “autumn” it’s game over instantly. That brings me to my next point…

BDSM is a game.

Whenever I come across people who are disturbed by BDSM, I must admit I feel a little less comfortable around them. I wonder whether they can separate reality from fantasy. It has to be understood that BDSM is fantasy, is play. Sure, there are people who do it badly, abusively, but isn’t that exactly the same with vanilla sex?

BDSM, as Dan Savage puts it, is a game of cops and robbers for adults… without pants. To play games properly, there are rules, clearly defined boundaries and if you don’t play by the rules, chances are you won’t be allowed to play again.

BDSM has taught me sexual agency.

I would like to further emphasise the importance of a safe word. As I said, it’s like a button that stops the game instantly the moment I’m feeling uncomfortable. A safe word is the thing that helps me know that no matter what I’m still in control. When I practice BDSM with my partner, like while watching a movie, I suspend my disbelief so that I can enjoy myself but we have a language that allows us to pause, play again or stop entirely.

As a submissive, I have a certain degree of responsibility towards my dominant partner, the responsibility to keep check on how I’m feeling and to make sure we don’t do anything I’m uncomfortable with. Before learning about BDSM, I didn’t have a real strategy for checking in with myself and I must admit to doing some damage to myself as a result – even while having calm, “normal” vanilla sex.

As Clarisse Thorn has written, BDSM helps encourage communication and that communication has helped me be far more aware and articulate about my own desires and boundaries.

In conclusion, I guess?

Nowadays, I am with a partner who is self identified as a dominant and this suits me wonderfully. Although I sometimes still feel residual guilt about making my sexual needs known, I feel a lot more comfortable and content sexually because I no longer feel so ashamed of my desires.

At the end of the day, when the game finishes, we’re ourselves again. Sometimes our game playing ends halfway and turns into languid, gentle lovemaking, sometimes –gasp – nobody even orgasms. Whatever, the point is that BDSM is only one aspect of our relationship, one aspect of our sexuality and ultimately, it’s just a pantsless game of cops and robbers.  Now that BDSM have given me a language and framework to explore my fantasies in a structured, considered way… I can finally allow myself out to play.

Other reading.

Because other people are more articulate and experienced than me, here are some links!

I would love for people to read this article, it’s big but it expresses a lot of my own experiences, thoughts and struggles: The Fantasy of Acceptable ‘Non-Consent’: Why the Female Sexual Submissive Scares Us (and Why She Shouldn’t).

Pro-SM Feminist Safe Spaces. I’ve only started reading this but it seems to be a good place to go to for discussions on BDSM.

Mistress Matisse’s Journal. The super sexy professional dominatrix, Mistress Matisse is articulate, intelligent and fun to read.

Clarisse Thorn. A super awesome, self described, “feminist, pro-BDSM, sex-positive activist”.

22 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Interesting stuff :)

Comment by Kitty

Thanks lovely!

Comment by Nio

Awesome post! Opinionated but still really easy to read. I think what I like most is that I didn’t feel you were arguing a case as such as speaking up for a frequently marginalised viewpoint. Which is something you’ve been doing really well lately, come to think of it.

I especially like this: “Submitting in the bedroom is not submitting to the patriarchy.” People can get so caught up and obsessed with historical contexts. Yes, you can take the cavemen as a starting point and say “Men have always oppressed and taken ownership of women with violence, hence BDSM is inherently patriarchal and damaging.” But this kind of thinking is, while immediately appealing, really one-dimensional. It makes the same mistake that Freud made (and convinced others to make time and time again): applying the same kind of critical theory to people and events in the real world that you might use to interpret a book or a piece of art may be eye-opening and illuminating, but you have to remember that there is no such thing as an objective interpretation. BDSM is always going to mean different things to different people, and context is always critical. Saying BDSM “could cause problems some of the time” is totally meaningless – more people die from swimming pools than leather and chains – there’s nothing on this fucking planet that doesn’t cause problems “some of the time” for some people.

The only way to say anything worth reading about BDSM (or most things) is to say what it has meant for you; trying to authoritatively decide what it should mean for other people is as nonsensical as saying “This perfume should remind you of your childhood.”

What I’m trying to ramble is that I think the approach you took here was very wise.

Comment by Wes

Thanks a lot for that awesome comment, Wes!

I think you’re entirely right about context. I’m really coming to think that if I want people to understand my viewpoint, I need to contextualize it by explaining myself at least to some degree.

I have no idea if that makes sense. I just keep thinking about Part 3 of Milan Kundera’s ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ – “Words Misunderstood”. There are two lovers, Sabina and Franz and though ostensibly they speak the same language, because they have lived entirely different lives, the words have come to mean different things and therefore often when they think they are having the same conversation, actually they are taking entirely different meanings from it. Um, lemme quote!

“Now, perhaps, we are in a better position to understand the abyss separating Sabina and Franz: he listened eagerly to the story of her life and she was equally eager to hear the story of his, but although they had a clear understanding of the logical meaning of words they exchanged, they failed to hear the semantic susurrus of the river flowing through them”. (P.86)

So you’re right, I think when I say “BDSM” it’s important for me to clarify what that means to me, just as I clarify my feminism with “sex-positive”. Now, obviously we cannot clarify and contextualize every single word we speak but I do think it’s useful when explaining one’s perspective on this sort of stuff, to help give a deeper understanding of that perspective. Oh yeah and it helps to keep in mind that “right” and “wrong” are subjective.

…I just talked a whole lot of shit at you, sorry!

Comment by Nio

I’m a feminist, I’m into BDSM and I am occasionally sexually submissive (I’m a switch).

It is the feminists who make comments like “submitting in the bedroom is submitting to the patriarchy,” that have made me think of just giving up on feminism altogether.

So, thank you for writing this. :)

Comment by Ghouldilocks

Thanks so much for the positive feedback, it means a lot!

I must admit that I’ve felt a great degree of frustration due to people who call themselves feminists and then try to impose their very specific, often small minded and heterosexist agenda onto everyone and everything. But I try to keep in mind that feminism is not the culprit – just BAD feminism!

Comment by Nio

Great post!

Another thing worth thinking about with the whole “submission is submitting to patriarchy” idea is that this attitude privileges stereotypically masculine sexuality as “correct.” In other words, if women should not enjoy sexual submissiveness, is that to mean they should be sexually dominant? To me, as a feminist who believes a major part of our work involves deconstructing what we think of as “good” (masculine traits such as physical strength, domination, and individualism etc) and “bad” (feminine traits such as physical weakness, emotions, communal action etc), this attitude simply replicates sexist value systems. Furthermore, as you note, there is a big difference between being sexually submissive and not having sexual agency. You can be submissive and still have agency, which many outsiders/commentators find hard to accept.

Anyway, great piece, and food for thought.

Comment by Gore Gore Girl

“To me, as a feminist who believes a major part of our work involves deconstructing what we think of as “good” (masculine traits such as physical strength, domination, and individualism etc) and “bad” (feminine traits such as physical weakness, emotions, communal action etc), this attitude simply replicates sexist value systems”

Exactly. That is perfectly put and I might even have to quote you in another entry I’m planning soon, haha!

And thanks a lot, I really appreciate the feedback!

Comment by Nio

Feel free to quote me! I would be honored. :)

Comment by Gore Gore Girl

This was a fantastic article; I really enjoyed how you summed things up and explained them in ways anyone could understand, and as a feminist submissive I’m thrilled you’re out here talking about this :)

Comment by duskinchains

And I am thrilled to hear that my rambling words are actually reaching people! Thanks a million.

Comment by Nio

[…] Yep, I’m a feminist. Yep, I’m sexually submissive. Yep, I’m a masochist. Yep, I fantasise about boys and girls tying me up and making me cry. For several years, I have gotten increasingly interested in BDSM and as I have become better educated on it, it is becoming more integrated into my sexual expression and vocabulary. On th … Read More […]

Pingback by The Sexually Submissive Feminist (via Feminism. Art. Porn. Sex.) « Stepping into kink

That picture is really cool. Out of curiosity, did you do it before or after you came into BDSM?

Comment by Clarisse

Thanks a lot!

And actually, that’s a really good question. I made it several years before I came into BDSM and it was during a period when I was feeling a lot of frustration and longing. I remembered it while I was writing this blog entry, in fact!

Comment by Nio

Good post and a nice pic too!

If your acting out your fantasy the dom is serving your needs so your not submitting to anyone, your in charge (but don’t tell that to your libido :)

Comment by Jake

I like to think we’re both in charge – except of course, when I’m pretending he’s in charge because yeah, that IS what my libido wants to hear!

Comment by Nio

I love this post on many levels. Thanks for it!


Comment by sexgenderbody

Well thankyou for the feedback, much appreciated coming from you!

Comment by Nio

This post gave me LIFE! Thank you for putting into words, just how I feel! Really, thank you!

Comment by @laura_luna

Oh my goodness, thankyou for such positive feedback! I’m so glad to hear this means something to people besides myself!

Comment by Nio

I’ve just recently reconciled my feminism with my sexual submissiveness, and it was a long and difficult battle. Despite finally feeling comfortable with my own identity in this sense, I haven’t really encountered anyone who has been through a similar struggle and come through it with a similar understanding – until now! Thanks, Nio – reading his piece made me feel understood! Your last point about how bdsm has taught you sexual agency is particularly wonderful. I couldn’t agree more – accepting and indulging in my submissiveness has ironically been the most sexually empowering experience I have ever had!

p.s. – I contribute to ISM as well (damesar) – that’s where i found your blog!

Comment by Sarah

Oh that is so fantastic to read! Thankyou, Sarah!

And I do know you from ISM – with your awesome comments and awesome folios! Great to have you here!

Comment by Nio

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: