Tag Archives: overthinking

It’s a feminist submissive thing

1 Jun

(Yes, I am totally dating myself with the reference in that title.)

Sometimes, being a feminist submissive means threading the finest of needles.

Earlier this week, I got involved in an online discussion prompted by a question from a self-identified feminist submissive about taking her fiance/master’s name after marrying. It was clear that this was a serious conflict for her – on the one hand, she liked the idea of being able to do this thing that showed the world she was “his.”  But on the other hand, she worried that this was an unfeminist act.

And I feel her! I think I’ve come really, really far in reconciling my own feminist and submissive identities, but I still have those moments of feeling like my submission is inherently and irrevocably at odds with my feminism.

Just last week, I was reading about a particularly insular and patriarchal religious sect, and I came across this snippet:

The real issue is sex. Not the act, but what it signifies — male control of women. That old story.

Ouch. Punch in the gut.

Rationally, I know that consensual, negotiated sex that really, really gets me off is totally different from a deeply patriarchal religion where no one’s roles are freely chosen. But damn if there isn’t a part of me that doesn’t feel a twinge about the fact that I (with my privileged education and vast amounts of personal freedom and mobility) eroticize this very “old story.”

Male control of women? That is quite literally what gets me off.

So in my response to the woman getting married, I tried to thread the feminist submissive needle carefully. I empathized with the complexity and told her that it was ok to feel a bit ambivalent, but that it was also ok for her to choose whatever she wanted to do.

And there were some other good responses. But there were a few that got under my skin, and at first, I couldn’t quite figure out why. They were all saying some variation on, “That’s not what feminism is about! Feminism is about choice!”

The “feminism is about choice!” response to feminist concerns about submission has never sat well with me, but I’ve never been quite able to put my finger on exactly why I found it so grating. I mean, I don’t actually agree that feminism is only about choice, but that wasn’t the only reason it bothered me.

Finally it hit me, and you’ll have to forgive me if this seems stunningly obvious: I dislike this response because, to a certain kind of feminist, it’s just deeply unhelpful. And maybe even harmful.

For a long time, I actually felt sort of weirdly shamed by this argument, on both sides.

On the one hand, I felt embarrassed that I’d let my politics so blind me to what I wanted sexually. It made me feel tricked. And on the other hand, it made me feel like I really was rejecting my feminist values by embracing my submissive side. Because again, my brand of feminism does not believe feminism is all about choice. Our choices are informed by culture and socialization, and make statements about our values and beliefs.

That’s obviously not to say that a feminist should only do ever do things that are perfectly in line with his or her feminist values, or that they are a Bad Feminist if they do something that seems to go in line with gender norms, for instance. But rather, that yes, it is complicated. Because life is complicated. Politics are complicated. Relationships are complicated.

So hey, feminist submissives (and doms and switches and whatever elses), you go on with your bad complicated selves. Complicated people make the best lovers, anyway.

Objectifying language

15 Jan




These are all “bad” words, doubly so for a feminist. Not only are they insults, but they are insults based on sexist ideas about what women should be, what gives a woman her value as a person.

And yet, I love hearing them used to describe me, by the right person, in the right context. I love it. I also love having my partner “remind” me that I’m just there for him to use, or that only his enjoyment matters. Nothing sends me into that submissive headspace (which is a very happy, very aroused space for me) quicker than some good, objectifying dirty talk.

I’ve been thinking about this lately for a few reasons. One, the sadistic gentleman I’ve been playing with has quite a way with the dirty words, and I’ve been marveling at how just a few minutes of that can get me so worked up.

And then a reader that I’ve been emailing back and forth with expressed surprise at how I could be so glib about my love of objectifying language. After all, isn’t that anathema to feminism?

I responded by pointing out that the difference, to my mind is context – and, specifically, consent and specificity. I used a vanilla example to explain: if my (hypothetical at the moment) boyfriend grabbed my ass, I’d probably grin and grab his back, because I would view it as a cute, flirty move. If some guy on the street grabbed my ass, it would be assault. What’s the difference? The guy on the street knows nothing about me and certainly does not have my consent. My boyfriend knows I like that sort of thing and obviously has my consent.

As for objectifying dirty talk, to me, it’s the difference between me being his sex object because I’m female and women are supposed to be sex objects for men – and being his sex object because it’s a shared fantasy that we both find really hot. Gender may inform the choice of words, but it’s not why we play like this – if our genders were reversed, or we were the same gender, we would still play that way.

So that’s why I don’t find this kind of play unfeminist. But why do I find it hot?

Now, when I ask why, I don’t mean, “what made me this way?” I think that’s an unanswerable and fairly useless question.

What I mean is “what does this do for me?” I think it comes down to being in the moment. In my day-to-day life, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and an over-thinker. I think that, in a strange way, being cast into this role is a wonderful way of releasing myself to be present in the moment – to at least come closer to being a totally sexual being for a little while.

It’s also exciting to feel like my partner is losing his everyday persona for a while as well. To have a normally respectful, intelligent nice guy let loose with a barrage of vulgar terms like that – well, it makes me feel perversely powerful and extremely sexy.

What about you? Do you like this kind of language – why or why not?

Making friends with my monster

25 May

This week I was talking with someone who suggested that I might be overthinking things on this blog. About that, there is no doubt. I overthink everything.

But I’m doing this thing right now where I’m trying to practice radical acceptance, of myself and of others. This sounds sort of woo-woo, but what it means is that, when I see something about myself that I don’t like, instead of beating myself up about it, I try to sit with it, understand it, give it a hug. When someone else does something I don’t like, I don’t try to pretend it doesn’t bother me, but I also try not to take it too personally. Both of these things are really hard to do, and I “fail” all the time. But it’s a very good process for me to go through. It’s been extraordinarily helpful in embracing my sexuality.

And I think I need to apply this acceptance to the overthinking, as well, as ridiculously circular and meta as that may be. The analysis may seem overwrought and torturous, but it’s actually quite freeing for me.

The way I explained it to this person was this: imagine you’re a little kid who thinks there’s a monster in your closet. If your mom just said, “there’s no monster, go back to sleep!” then you wouldn’t be able to sleep. You’d lie awake and worry about the monster, and the longer you lay there, the bigger and scarier it would get. But if she brought you over to the closet, turned on the light, and showed you that the only things in your closet were clothes and toys, then you’d be ok. You could sleep, knowing that nothing was going to hurt you.

I think that what I’m doing on this blog is kinda like that. There actually was a creature in my closet, but it wasn’t a monster after all! Or maybe it’s one of those Jim Henson monsters – a bit weird and maybe it seems sort of grotesque, but it’s not going to hurt me and it really just wants to be my friend. However, in order to be its friend, I need to turn on the closet light and really look at it for a while.

So for instance, I wrote that post about whether or not I identified as “submissive.” I’ve been thinking of myself that way for a while, but it still felt weird and uncomfortable to say. Now, I honestly don’t think labels are all that important, even in the context of kinky dating, because everyone attaches such different meanings to them. But the fact that this word – a word that I did think referred to me – made me uncomfortable seemed important. So I wrote a post where I took the word, and turned it over in my hand, and tried to examine all the ways it made me feel uncomfortable. And having done that, I was able to say, “well, you know, these things do make me feel a bit squicky, but even despite that, the word ‘submissive’ does still feel like an accurate word to describe myself.” And that brings me a step closer to becoming friends with the creature.

Of course, you can take this too far. You can spend so much time examining the creature that you forget the purpose of the exercise, which was to make friends with it. (And, uh, go out and have fun, sexy adventures with it? This metaphor just got a little weird.) But I think as long as you keep your eyes on the goal, which for me is the ability to be myself and express my sexuality without shame, it can be a really good exercise.