Saturday, 23 June 2007

What do we mean by feminist BDSM?

Is it...

A more egalitarian or 'ethical' approach to BDSM relationships and dynamics?

A resistance to much of the traditional, gendered protocol of BDSM spaces?

A refusal to accept that all expressions of BDSM are inherently degrading to women, and that feminism's cause and greater acceptance of BDSM as a valid, consensual choice are connected and entwined?

An understanding and acceptance that sexuality and desire, yes, even for the wimminz, simply can't be rationalised or policed?

The idea of steering relationships, within voluntary hierarchies, away from traditional gender roles?

For me, it's all of these things. The last thought, actually, is interesting. It seems to me that a lot of F/m relationship dynamics steer the m away from traditional notions of masculinity and male gender role.

Is it hard to believe that many M/f relationships do the same?

T has disciplined me into shrugging off a lot of 'femininity' baggage; traits, beliefs, judgements I have placed on myself according to what society, and to a small extent the BDSM community, has defined as 'feminine' or 'submissive'. Just as many female dominants enjoy educating and empowering male submissives into accepting and understanding that not all men want or need to be the hunter-gatherer, the 'alpha' male or sexually dominant, is it possible that a lot of male dominants might want to do the same with female submissives?

One thing I'm sure of: this dynamic, this acceptance and understanding that conforming to gender role in my development as a BDSM submissive was unnecessary actually led to my reclaiming 'feminist' as part of my identity and politics.

8 comments:

Trinity said...

"One thing I'm sure of: this dynamic, this acceptance and understanding that conforming to gender role in my development as a BDSM submissive was unnecessary actually led to my reclaiming 'feminist' as part of my identity and politics."

Very cool!

I really like this post.

I think there can be a real difference between embracing some traits that parallel a gender role for your own reasons, and accepting them because they're what's expected of you.

Korakious said...



I think there can be a real difference between embracing some traits that parallel a gender role for your own reasons, and accepting them because they're what's expected of you.


Spot on.

Anonymous said...

"Just as many female dominants enjoy educating and empowering male submissives into accepting and understanding that not all men want or need to be the hunter-gatherer, the 'alpha' male or sexually dominant, is it possible that a lot of male dominants might want to do the same with female submissives?"

Are you suggesting that many male dominants.... enjoy educating and empowering female submissives into accepting and understanding that not all women want or need to be the... (I can't parse the inverse of "hunter-gatherer"...herder-farmer??,) followers, or sexually submissive?

That seems unlikely.

But surely you can't be arguing that cultural expectations push women to be sexually dominant, or "alpha females"! [Anybody tried being a woman holding actual power (nice work if you can get it...) and seeing the double standard make your every move somehow wrong?]

The reason Domme women sometimes need to be reassuring/empowering towards submissive men is that F/m goes against traditional gender power roles - the men are not acting "manly". Female submission does not remotely threaten a woman's "femininity."

Now please, let's shelve the argument that the female sexual aggressiveness/sex-positivity that is now fashionable, represents a significant difference. Since the feminine sexual ideal has changed from temptress to pornstar, women are socially expected to actively seduce and fuck men - heavy on the unreciprocated blowjobs, shaved pussies and one-night-stands. Self-objectification is the goal - to turn herself into the sexiest, shiniest fuck-object. This is still aimed at pleasing men and servicing male-supremacist sexuality; women's desires that don't so ideally suit men's pleasure remain peripheral at best. And the most casual inspection of popular, mainstream pornography shows increasingly "extreme" humiliating or uncomfortable sex acts, in "vanilla" porn, sprinkled with abusive language. In short - everyday "vanilla" sex is mighty close to M/f lite, (minus the "consent".)

A sense of male entitlement to woman-as-sexual-thing extends, ludicrously enough, into Femdom, I am chagrined to say, where the popular-image perfect sex object is simply a bossier fetish model, haughtily fulfilling his every fantasy as though it were her idea, and men beg to be "feminized" so that they can feel truly submissive.

I suppose this will be deleted in the interest of 'safe space' (meaning - never looking critically at any possible choice anyone might choose to make, ever...?), but I hope not. I am a feminist in the D/s community myself, and hope we don't have to shy away from these issues.

verte said...

Dear anon:

Why would I delete your comment? Have you been abusive? No. Dismissive, maybe... but that's okay. That's all the 'safe space' rule is about.

Next time use some kind of tag rather than 'anonymous' and we'll know you're not a troll. :) There are some vague attempts at ideas of rules and 'safe space' from a way back -- i must link them permanently.

To answer your question, you seem to be assuming that gender role and D/s roles are the same thing. Why is it not possible to loosen the ties of gender role while maintaining and strengthening the D/s role for the submissive? That is, believe it or not, exactly what goes on with my male dominant, who's a bit of an androgyne himself, which, you know, is not ALL that uncommon in male dominants. There are other paradigms of power hierarchies that do not fit the hunter-gather/domestic and sexual object mould, and while what they all have in common is one person dominating the other, not all of them are gender specific. I don't really think it's that uncommon for female dominants to see it that way either.

I am certainly not arguing that society wants to place women in the role the 'natural' alpha or sexual dominant. Far from it.

As for your points on D/s and vanilla meta-consent, we've discussed this at length on the first Gendered Supremacies post (I think?) and the discussions are worth reading.

Trinity said...

"Now please, let's shelve the argument that the female sexual aggressiveness/sex-positivity that is now fashionable"

*sigh*

No, it's not.

Trinity said...

Also... I really probably shouldn't even touch all that "sex-positivity is all about women acting slutty for men" stuff because it's not useful at all to anyone IMO, but if you're gonna make sweeping claims about women;s sexual aggressiveness and its faddiness... I hope you're a top and know what it's like to deal with being both rejected for it and treated as if it carries a specific meaning.

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