Submission as a Feminist Choice

I was pretty much born a feminist, if you go by the words of activist and academic Cheris Kramarae, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”

I grew up with a single mother, a biology researcher turned science teacher who taught evolution and sex ed in a school system that argued with her about both. I can remember coloring in my Precious Moments coloring books while my aunt (a social worker turned attorney) volunteered at a pro-choice hotline for women who needed information about how to obtain a safe abortion.

But as I grew older, my love of reading led me down some dark and lusty hallways adolescent fantasies took the scenic route: I read The Diaries of Anais NinErica Jong’s Fear of Flying, and the Story of O, I watched Rocky Horror Picture Show and was introduced to the idea of “kink” as an alternative/subversion to white Christian values (such as they are). I even found myself watching and rewatching the Castle of Anthrax scene from Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail because the idea excited me so.

"I do not want to be the leader. I refuse to be the leader. I want to live darkly and richly in my femaleness. I want a man lying over me, always over me. His will, his pleasure, his desire, his life, his work, his sexuality the touchstone, the command, my pivot. I don’t mind working, holding my ground intellectually, artistically; but as a woman, oh, God, as a woman I want to be dominated. I don’t mind being told to stand on my own feet, not to cling, be all that I am capable of doing, but I am going to be pursued, fucked, possessed by the will of a male at his time, his bidding.”
If you haven’t read the Diary of Anais Nin, you are missing out!

As a young adult and a submissive in the making, I had a difficult time processing all of these ideas. I wanted to embrace Anais Nin’s erotic appreciation for feminine submission and Erica Jong’s positive sexuality and freedom, but I didn’t live either of their realities!

I lived in an alternate reality full of sex-starved hypocrites and rapists.

I grew up on overseas military bases, where the population of active duty personnel was roughly 85% male. It created this sort of economy of sexual poverty in which women were the currency. Men treated sex as a scare resource to be hoarded, the access to which controlled. In

In my reality, I was surrounded by young men who competed for the few eligible women (there were rules that prohibited even fraternization between enlisted and officers), and this led to a culture that shamed women who dared to enjoy sex the way the men did. I saw it everywhere: men and boys would barely know a girl before ‘claiming’ her and then, if she flirted with or dating anyone else, she was called a slut or a whore by the first guy and by every jealous spectator. Young women who didn’t know better were often ‘passed around’ the barracks by disillusioned young men who proposed marriage one day and talked about them like they were prostitutes the next.

The rate of sexual assualt in the military is startlingly high and hugely under-reported, due to a culture of slut-shaming the sexual minory (women) and the corrupt politics of the chain of command. If an active-duty victim (female or male) reports an assault, s/he is often threatened with charges of adultery (illegal in the military) and loss of rank. S/he may be assigned duties below rank and will often face harassment from every direction.

Growing up in this culture did not allow room for the development of positive sexuality. Sex was to be guarded carefully or else passed around to be shared by men who would alternately enjoy you and then shame you if you enjoyed it.

I returned to the civilian world in my early twenties, but it took me years to lose the feeling of shame I learned to associate (or at least demonstrate) when engaging in sex. To some degree, I still worry about how others will view or judge my enjoyment of sex.

Good girls should never enjoy sex, or at least not let anyone know about it!

Considering the feminist values of my early childhood, my adolescent experiences with the male-dominated military, and my secret submissive desires… it sure made for some conflicted yearnings!

But the heart wants what it wants. And I want equality and respect as a woman and a submissive.

Let me be clear: I am a woman, first and foremost. I am a woman who chooses to take on a submissive role in my sexual/romantic relationship(s). I choose that role because I find that dynamic sublimely enjoyable and because I have the right to engage in whatever consensual sexual relationship types or specific acts my partner(s) and I happen to find enjoyable (provided they are not exploitive or hurtful to anyone or anything). As an adult woman, I have the right to decide for myself what is right for me. And I choose this.

It’s can be difficult to reconcile the concepts of empowerment and submission, as Morgan at Alternet.org notes:

“It took years for me to embrace my submissive nature, in part because it seemed to be so antithetical to my feminist beliefs. Then I realized that part of being a feminist, for me, is taking control of my sexuality – admitting what I want, and finding a way to have it that keeps me safe in both body and mind. I am fundamentally in favor of everyone being able to admit to, and negotiate, the sex that they want – as long as it does not endanger others.”

In an essay titled, “Why the Female Submissive Scares Us (and Why She Shouldn’t)” Stacey May Fowles says:

“It’s pretty evident that the feminist movement at large is not really ready to admit that women who like to be hit, choked, tied up, and humiliated are empowered. Personally, the more I submitted sexually, the more I was able to be autonomous in my external life, the more I was able to achieve equality in my sexual and romantic partnerships, and the more genuine I felt as a human being.”

The Power of the Submissive

There is a lot said about how the submissive holds the ultimate power. This is because of the universal use of “safe words” in the BDSM community and the constant focus on consent and safety. When a sexual submissive speaks his or her safeword, all action stops.

Unlike the real world where ‘no‘ might mean ‘maybe,‘ and consent often hinges on what a person was wearing or drinking at the time of the assault, in BDSM, consent is given explicitly, often contractually, and can that consent can be withdrawn with a single word. In dungeons or play scenes, there are often monitors there just to ensure the safety and enjoyment of every participant.

“Safe, sane and consensual BDSM exists as a polar opposite of a reality in which women constantly face the threat of sexual violence.”

– Stacey May Fowles

I, for one, would feel much safer in any BDSN dungeon than in any Stanford frat party.

“With all of its limitations, safe words, time limits and explicitly negotiated understandings of what is allowed — is the consensual SM relationship actually the ultimate in trust and collaborative “performance,” its rules and artifice the very antithesis of rape?

 

Paradoxically, sexual submission and rape fantasy can only be acceptable in a culture that doesn’t condone them.”

– Stacey May Fowles

Choosing submission, choosing kink is my right as a feminist.

Sure, there are men (and women) out there who misrepresent themselves as BDSM Dominants and manipulate submissive women or men. I’m sure there are instances of consent violations in BDSM, too. I can’t argue that. But I can argue that women who choose submission are not stupid or incompetent to do so, and that feminism includes empowerment to choose a lifestyle that bring enjoyment, even if it isn’t what others would choose.

“Sadly, claims of sexual emancipation do not translate into acceptance for submissives — the best a submissive can hope for is to be labeled and condescended to as a damaged victim choosing submission as a way of healing from or processing past trauma and abuse.”

– Stacey May Fowles

 

Feminist women should be able to choose whatever lifestyle suits them, and that may include an alternative sexual orientation or practice, the option to never have children or to have many, working in business or working a blue colar job or even not working at all!

Cliff Pervocracy agrees:

“When I look you in the eye and say ‘I want this, I chose this, I sought this out,’ believe me. If you trust women to know their own needs, believe me; and if you don’t, don’t call yourself a feminist.”

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Kink and Self-Acceptance

I’ve been a sub in the making for as long as I can remember.

I started searching for some blogs on the topic of kink and submission. I found a post from a blog called The Story of A called Submission isn’t Just a Sex Thing. It’s a Part of Me.

The author writes about her childhood fantasies:

“I remember spending large amounts of time in the evenings, especially during and after baths, imagining kidnapping scenes, pretending that my ravishers were watching me, taunting me. I offered deals, I pleaded, I cajoled… but nothing would make them waver from their goal—which was usually unimportant anyway. The only thing that mattered was that they held me, and wanted to keep me.”  -Ani

Can I just tell you how much I identified with this post?

It was a huge relief, actually.

I have similar memories from being a child. I also started writing stories around age 10, stories that always featured an innocent girl and a far more experienced and not always benign man. I swear the first sexy short scene I ever wrote was about a girl basically being molested or at least assaulted. There was definitely a consent issue! Did I mention I was 1o years old when I wrote it and then tore the paper to shreds over the trash can in shame?

I’ve been a sub in the making for as long as I can remember.

I always knew I was a weirdo. While all my girlfriends were crushing on JTT, I had built an altar in my bedroom to Jeff Goldblum.

jeff-goldblum-independence-day-2

I had photos of him that I tore out of magazines; I even had his action figure from Independence Day. I fantasized about this tall, brilliant, Jewish man taking advantage of me in the lab while I protested…maybe he’s be angry with me because I inoculated the wrong petri dish, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is, to my 15 year old mind, he represented intelligence, influence, and power; he was 30 years my senior, and he made me hotter than any boy my age.

I have attempted to maintain a sense of humor about my peculiar turn-ons.

I’ve resorted to making jokes to friends about silly ol’ me and my fetish for educated, ornery, Jewish men, for example. When I had to call a friend one night to ask her to pick me up because my drunk boyfriend was texting that he was on his way to my house to kill me, I joked about it. Typical, eh? The nice ones bore me and the hot ones kill me! har-har! But the humor concealed a deep sense of shame.

What is wrong with me?

Why am I only attracted to men who abuse me? I have wondered if I was codependent, just plain dependent, neurotic, or just plain fucked up.

“I can’t not be kinky. I have the ability to have vanilla sex, sure, but I’d really rather not.”  -Ani

I have dated some very nice men. A musician, an attorney, a surgeon, even a state senator, and each of them super sweet and smart! Typically, I dated these men immediately after the less-nice ones, when I was feeling very ashamed of myself and determined to make ‘better life-choices.’ The fact that these men were so nice made it that much worse when I subsequently ended (or sabotaged) each of those relationships because I got bored.

The less-nice guys? At least they didn’t bore me…

The first wasn’t anything special, really. He was just 10 years older than me and he bossed me around a lot. And I liked it. He told me when to blow him and how to blow him, he’d grab me and push me over the bathroom counter to make me watch him fuck me from behind, he’d make me say I liked it… I loved it.

The one who wanted to kill me? He was not that special, either. He was just a mean drunk who got rough when he drank, which was often. It worked for me until it didn’t.

I settled for abusive men instead of looking for a Dominant man.

Because of my shame, I wasn’t willing to admit what I wanted or to look for it. Instead, I subconsciously sought out the traits that I associated with my fantasies. I saw sex appeal where there should have been red flags.

Because of my shame, I didn’t even Google my kink or seek out the community that was waiting there the whole time.

Because of my shame, I didn’t have any guidance about how to look for and recognize a safe or sane Dominant. Instead, I subjected myself to real verbal and emotional abuse and threats of harm from a man who had no interest in my safety.

I love the post from The Story of A.  Each time I read a story like this, I feel less alone and less ashamed. And it is so important to throw off that shame, because it only hurts me.

“When someone asks me how I got into kink, I simply say that I’m wired that way. I have known no other way to live.”  -Ani