Reconciling my feminism, Part I

26 Mar

Once I started coming to terms with my sexuality, I began searching the internet to see if other feminists, especially female subs, have had similar issue reconciling their desires with their values and political beliefs. I found a lot of really great pieces (I’ve started collecting some of the best in this resource page). But more than that, I found a lot of people saying things like “of course this has nothing to do with feminism!” and “Feminism is about choice. If a woman chooses to do this, then it’s not anti-feminist.”

For a while, reading things like this actually made me feel worse. If it’s so easy for these women, why was it so hard for me? Why did I spend so many years shoving my sexuality down into a little ball? I felt like a fool, a chump.

But here’s the thing: I actually don’t believe that feminism is “all about about choice”. Sure, freedom of choice is an important goal of feminism. Women should have the same life choices as men. But feminism does not begin and end with choice. Women choose to do things all the damn time that perpetuate sexism. When I chose to leave a job with a sexually-harrassing boss instead of reporting him, that perpetuated sexism. When I go to get waxed once a month, that perpetuates the sexist idea that women should be free of body hair. I don’t beat myself up over these things, but I don’t pretend they’re feminist acts, either.

My version of feminism is and always has been based on the idea that sexism pervades every aspect of our society and culture, that this harms both men and women, and that the goal of feminism should be to root out this sexism wherever it exists. A lofty goal, for sure, but what’s the point of an ideology without a utopian vision?

So that’s what feminism has always meant to me. But then there was my inconvenient sexuality: I’m a heterosexual female submissive. Literally every sexual fantasy I’ve ever had  (going back to my presexual – but no less thrilling! – childhood fantasies of being kidnapped and/or spanked) has involved being dominated (often in violent, degrading ways) by a man.

I’m a feminist with a fetish for male domination. The patriarchy is my kink. It’s pretty funny. I can laugh about it now.

But when I first realized what turned me on, I was horrified. Had I been Brainwashed by the Patriarchy? Did I have the right to call myself a feminist when my deepest, darkest desire was to be dominated by a man? Or worse: were all those antifeminists and rape apologists with their evo psych theories right – did I really just want to be “put in my place”?

Rationally, I knew at the time, and know now, that this is an incredibly self-absorbed way to look at kink. Intellectually, I know that dominance and submission are not reliant on gender. There are male subs and female doms. There are doms and subs that are gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, and so on. There are switches of all gender identifications and sexual orientations. Discounting their sexuality is, well, Not Cool.

But emotionally, as I wrote about in my last post, it’s been a lot harder. The more I talk about this openly, and learn from people who have had the same experiences and struggles, the easier it gets. But I think it will probably be a while before I completely get rid of the cognitive dissonance.

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5 Responses to “Reconciling my feminism, Part I”

  1. Leah March 27, 2011 at 6:06 AM #

    Thanks for blogging about this subject. I, too, self-identify as a feminist, which is a shorthand label for many connected ideas. I agree that equality of opportunity and freedom of choice shouldn’t and can’t be the end of the story. Figuring out how to reconcile feminism with the D/s dynamic perplexed me greatly. My thoughts in this direction are still very tentative and a challenge for me to articulate. I am excited to read more about this from you.

    • feministsub March 27, 2011 at 10:45 AM #

      Thanks for the comment. Your blog is one of my favorites (you are a great writer) and I love what you have posted on sex, D/s and feminism.

  2. ria April 4, 2011 at 3:09 AM #

    Do you feel that perhaps a woman’s submission is one way of her taking control of the patriarchy we speak of? I’ve been pondering this. Outside of our intimate relationships, we can’t control how we’re treated or viewed on the basis that we’re women (generally speaking, of course). However, within the context of a D/s relationship, a women who is a submissive really has a say in how she is to be viewed, treated, or violated, if not specifically to every interaction, then certainly generally in the form of her consent to her Dom’s ownership of her, which she can withdraw at any time.

    Just a thought..

    • feministsub April 4, 2011 at 9:26 AM #

      Interesting question. I guess I think that a woman taking ownership of her sexuality in whatever way is authentic for her is anti-patriarchical. I would hate to think that the *only* way for a woman to “have a say in how she is to be viewed, treated …” is to be submissive.

      Here’s the thing I find really interesting about the BDSM community, D/s relationships in particular: when it comes down to it, the power dynamics are not *really* any different. Every one of us has the right and the ability to change the dynamics of a relationship, assert our needs within the relationship, or end it at any time. But D/s, when done right, makes these things explicit in a way that’s not usually the case in most relationships.

  3. oedalis April 15, 2013 at 1:35 PM #

    OMG THANK YOU!
    Over at Pervocracy the line is ALL “I’m a feminist and kink feels good, so it must be okay!”. Thank you for writing a blog that at least acknowledges my concerns even if there are no easy answers.

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