With 'vanilla' (non-kinky) sex, I had always been very focused on my partner and what he might be thinking of my actions. Did I say the right thing just now? Am I moving in the right way? Should I take off my pants now?
A liberated woman in bondage.
That’s the phrase my partner once used in the middle of a rope scene, and I’ve always liked it. It helps me reconcile who I am and what I do. In my daily life, I am a strong woman. I have ambitions, I speak up, and I take charge when I need to.
In a BDSM environment, I am a strong woman. . . and I am a submissive. These two concepts are not antithetical! It takes strength to put yourself in the hands of another. It takes strength to recognize your own power and hand it to another. It takes strength to let go of decision-making and trust someone else.
My first BDSM experience happened was at the age of 26, and it was an eye-opening night for me. The next morning, I found myself questioning my identity as a feminist. How could I want a man to do those things to me? How could I revel in having power taken away from me, in being forced to do things? How could having my hair pulled, and hands held down finally make sex feel right?
I struggled with those questions for a while. I turned to friends, to literature, and to the BDSM community. I have always been grateful for the support and guidance I found there. I discovered more people like me, who not only accepted, but rejoiced in their desires. I learned that it’s okay to want what I want, and that being Submissive is just one more side of me.
The more I learned and experienced, the more it made sense to me. With vanilla (non-kinky) sex, I had always been very focused on my partner and what he might be thinking of my actions.
Did I say the right thing just now?
Am I moving in the right way?
Should I take off my pants now? How about now?
It was very difficult for me to shut my brain off, much less relax enough to have an orgasm. The closer I got to orgasm, the more stressed I became about doing it right.
In my BDSM scenes, I don’t feel any of that pressure. If I am gagged, there is no right thing to say. If I am tied up, there is no right way to move. If I am following a dominant’s orders, he or she will tell me exactly when to undress. When my power is taken away, so are my responsibilities, and I am finally free to focus on myself and my pleasure. That feels pretty feminist to me!
The patriarchy imposes structures and roles onto women without their consent. Feminism reclaims that agency and allows us to choose for ourselves. Joining the BDSM community with intention falls solidly within that realm.
There are many ways to experience and perform sexuality, and dominance/submission is only one of them. I fully recognize that my preferences are probably the minority (although popular culture sure does like to showcase them). Your feminism may involve playing the dominant role in these scenarios, or something entirely different. The awesome thing is, as feminists, we can celebrate our freedom to choose for ourselves.