“I want you to respect me as a person but please choke, slap, bite, spank, restrain, and call me a dirty slut when you enter my bedroom”
—This thought is a little secret of many modern feminists.
People often think that feminists must not like to be dominated by a male partner, as they strive for political and economic equality. However, when it comes to sexual lifestyle and preferences, this isn’t always the case. Some modern feminists prefer men who degrade them in the bedroom. Here, a question arises: how can you still call yourself a feminist when you enjoy being degraded through heterosexual BDSM play?
Feminist Critiques of BDSM and Power Play
Focusing on the power relationship between the dominant and submissive, some feminists criticize that BDSM reinforces patriarchy and thus it is contradictory to feminism. A Bitch Magazine article quoted Kathleen Barry, as saying in her book Female Sexual Slavery, that BDSM practices are “a disguise for the act of sexually forcing a woman against her will.” It is suggested that women who perform the submissive role in BDSM practices have been led by a sexist power structure to believe that they enjoy these acts.
In other words, this theory claims that those who enjoy being submissive in the bedroom only enjoy it because they have been taught that it is what is expected of them and that they should enjoy it. This recalls Norma Ramon’s words, in a 1995 issue of Ms. Magazine, that “women are socialized into actually getting sexual pleasure through their powerlessness.” Thus, it is believed that without the influence of a sexist power structure, those women would hardly enjoy playing the submissive in the bedroom.
But, am I to be disqualified as a feminist if I enjoy playing a submissive role during sex? Does being submissive in bed equal being submissive in everything? No, of course not! Daphne Merkin, who wrote a piece for The New Yorker detailing how she likes spanking sex play, comments:
“Why would you say that you had so much trouble reconciling your feminism with your interest in being spanked? What about your early understanding of feminism made you believe that seeking out something you found pleasurable was in so much conflict with feminism?”
So why would such a passionate feminist want sex like that? Why is it so interesting to play at surrendering?
Submission is Power
For some, it may be that power is not always so comfortable, that equality is something we want only sometimes and in some arenas. Personally, submitting to someone and allowing him to treat me in ways I would never allow anyone to treat me in reality, is exciting and it enables a balance inside myself since outside the bedroom I am always an independent feminist.
Also, while allowing a man to take control of my body and my sexual pleasure, I am in total control (a very basic principle of BDSM is that the sub can choose what boundaries are in place and can stop the play at any time). In this way, being submissive in bed is actually empowering because I am able to ask for what I specifically want, which makes me feel like the power is in fact equally distributed because things aren’t being done to me, they are done for me.
Simply a Fantasy
Due to the fact that we are in a society where equality is still lacking in so many fields, many feminists still feel that to surrender power in the bedroom is to surrender it elsewhere. But what I would like to emphasize is that this power and dominance only exist in a role-playing situation, therefore it is not “real”. Thus, if we are outside the BDSM lifestyle, we should not judge women who play the submissive role in the bedroom as bad feminists.
More importantly, we should notice that the bedroom is a special place to act out fantasies, not to adhere to politics and theories. When a journalist in an interview asked feminist Simone de Beauvoir if her submission to Jean-Paul Sartre in her personal life was opposed to her feminist theories, she stated, “Well, I just don’t give a damn… I’m sorry to disappoint all the feminists, but you can say it’s too bad so many of them live only in theory instead of in real life”.
Ultimately, no one should have the right to tell me what I am supposed to enjoy or not enjoy as either a feminist or as a woman. Liking to be called a “dirty whore” in the bedroom does not make me a bad feminist. In fact, it equals the powers and desires inside me and makes me a liberal and brilliant feminist.
Carpentier, Megan. “BDSM And Feminism: ‘Stop Telling Me What I’m Supposed To Like, D*mn It.” Jezebel. 17 October 2010. Web. 2 September 2016.
Deckha, Maneesha (2011). “Pain as a Culture: A Postcolonial Feminist Approach to S/M and Women’s Agency”. Sexualities. 14 (129).
Perspectivesonsex. “On Being a Feminist Submissive.” Feministing. 2015. Web. 2 September 2016.
Scott, Catherine. “Thinking Kink: Does Female Submission mean Oppression?” Bitch Media. 9 July 2012. Web. 2 September 2016.
S, Nora. “Does Liking BDSM Make Me a Bad Feminist?” The Vagenda Magazine. 5 June 2014. Web. 2 September 2016.
“She Works Crazy Hours. She Takes Care of the Kids. She Earns More Money. She Manages her Team. At the End of the Day, She Wants to be … Spanked?: Katie Roiphe on the curious case of the modern woman’s retro bedroom fantasy.” The Newsweek. 159 (18). 30 April 2012. Web. 2 September 2016.