Filed under: Art, Feminism, Sex | Tags: Art, bdsm, Feminism, Sex, sexuality, submissive
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.
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.
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.
Clarisse Thorn. A super awesome, self described, “feminist, pro-BDSM, sex-positive activist”.
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