A submissive and a feminist walked into a bar…

April 19, 2008 rooroo

So recently there was a piece written on the F word on the subject of pornography and abuse. Subjects such as pornography, BDSM and sex work are massively polarised among feminist groups. I do watch pornography, and I think pornography would benefit from a greater spectrum of direction than the heterosexual man’s perspective. That’s for another debate though.  

So a few comments down, the subject matter comes onto BDSM. I respect the right for any individual to have their opinion (unless you don’t put your weights back) but the following snippets left me with an overwhelming feeling of Le Sigh.

“Choice” and “consent” are besides the point: the point is that BDSM is based on the idea that one person is gratified by “punishing” and spitting down upon another person so explicitly, and that the recipient of this abuse should enjoy the degradation. When you see this dynamic, how is it any different than rape?


Has it ever occurred to you that women are brainwashed into enjoying pain or hurt? I am not judging individual women for getting into BDSM. I am criticizing the whole mentality and power system that created it and perpetuates it.

Holy missing the point and a few generalisations in there Batman! There is more, but I’ll leave it to you.

I like to think that my readers have the intellectual capacity to deduce the fact that issues of choice and consent are not besides the point – they are the whole point. And my choices are no less valid because I choose to occasionally engage in something seen less desirable in terms of feminist critique – if it is, then kudos to you for alienating me. As for being brainwashed, I started having fantasies of being in situations where I want to submit long before I had any internet access or was even aware of what S&M stood for. This is the stage where I’d imagine, a lot of the (for want of a better word) the deconstruction starts. Is there an underlying event, pathology or reason why I should turn to something like this?

Therein partly lies the problem, especially among some feminists. It can be useful to look to the past in explaining present behaviours, but I don’t know how useful it is to pick away at the carcass of something that maybe doesn’t require that much explanation? For me, it’s merely a tautology. I like being submissive because it turns me on. It turns me on because I like being submissive. I am a feminist in my day to day life; I am a feminist when I am submissive. I haven’t been brainwashed by the patriarchal forces, if I wanted to enter a different position of power, such as a dominant in the bedroom, that wouldn’t be a huge problem. I have the capacity to consent; I have the choice and power to make it stop with one word.

That aside, I don’t think we should pathologise and extrapolate different power dynamics in the bedroom to everyday life; it can be healthy and fun. I don’t think unequal power dynamics in the bedroom are necessarily a bad thing when both parties are into it, it doesn’t make it unhealthy or abusive. Does it change the way we [boy and I] interact and treat each other outside of this context? If it has, I haven’t noticed.

If anything, exploring my submissive side has benefitted me in my everyday life, including my identity as a feminist. I found a quote on the pro-sm feminist blog and it echoes how I feel on the subject:

Bizarrely, perhaps, the more I delve into submission, the more I make sense of my taste for psychological masochism and degradation, the less shit I take in situations where I would usually be subordinate.

This rings true for me, especially in medicine. Submissive does not = passive. I’ve had registrars give me lip and expect me to merely stay nice and quiet – I don’t put up with it, and give as good as I get. When we are taught not to question certain things because ‘that’s how they are’ and we’re only medical students so we should sit there and take it, I don’t stand for it. When you’re trying to push my arms off the seat rests on the Tube because you want to read the Telegraph, you’ll find out how strong my arms are. You may want me to submit, but I’m aware of my own parameters to know when it’s time to break through the fence. So no banana for you!

If anything, with a little mutual respect and understanding, I think a lot of feminists could learn a lot from the people who engage in BDSM (probably those who engage in it more often than I do!) As the final comment on the F word said, this is something that challenges the heteronormative view on sex and sexuality – and anything that does that can’t be a bad thing in my book.


Entry Filed under: BDSM, feministing, musings, relationships, sex

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jonolan&hellip  | 

    Here’s a bit of advice – which I’ll bet that you probably don’t want to hear:

    If you want any men to actually objectively read posts like the one above, don’t include lesbian references alongside feminist references. Yet another “dyke feminist” is the 1st thought of the male reader.

    In the US at least a particularly man-hating breed of lesbian hijacked the publicized feminist movement decades ago. Women in the US are still dealing with the damage that caused.

  • 2. dommebell&hellip  | 

    I don’t think you know me well enough to assume what I do and don’t want to hear 🙂

  • 3. jonolan&hellip  | 

    Few people want to hear advise, so it seemed a good bet 😉 It was also a “literary device” intended to exemplify the affect I was trying to describe in my comment.

  • 4. jonolan&hellip  | 

    Oh, by the way – as a feminist and a submissive, do you find yourself “ruling from the bottom?” I noticed multiple levels of power exchange in the D/s community.

  • 5. dommebell&hellip  | 

    Hmm, possibly. It’s not something I’ve given that much thought to but as you’ve stated, there are mutiple levels of power exchange. I think in general subs have more power than given credit for but I think that’s more to do with perceptions of people looking from the outside in.

    I’m about to start some housework, will continue to note down my thoughts in due course.

  • 6. elle&hellip  | 

    Interesting to learn that women are brainwashed into enjoying pain. No mention that the multi-million dollar (albeit highly franchised) BDSM industry keeps its coffers filled thanks mostly to people of the XY persuasion.

    Of course, it may just be that, not usually having to pay for sex, women aren’t used to paying for other sexual services, but that doesn’t change the fact that millions of brainwashed males are cheerfully swapping money for pain.

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