Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Ask Eva: BSDM and Feminism. Can I submit and still consider myself a feminist?

Originally asked via the "Ask Eva"column in Birdee Magazine. I have been asked about this article/letter a lot lately so I decided to post it up here as unfortunately Birdee does not exist any more (RIP to the best young women's publication since Dolly in the 90s).

Hey, Eva,
I'm super curious about BDSM, but everything I find online is either about 50 Shades or is fake ass porn. What's it really like? Does it really portray abuse? Why am I interested in it but against abuse?!?

Hey there!

This is a really interesting question and one I get asked a lot. Especially within the boundaries of feminism.
How can women, who call themselves feminists, be even remotely interested in submission? Doesn't it go against everything we've been taught?
Well actually, no. It does not. And, once you sort a few things out in your head., it's actually not that hard to get your head around it at all.

Firstly, it's really important to separate the idea of “submission” from that of weakness. It isn't. It is actually quite a strong thing to give your power over to someone else. The trust and self belief you need to be able to do it is something that can make you a very strong and powerful person within yourself and all other areas of your life.

Secondly, you need to stop thinking of it in terms of “submitting to a man”. If you are a heterosexual person, then ultimately (although of course not always) your sexual fantasies, whatever they are, will most likely be in the area of your sexuality. If you are a straight female who is interested in submission, your dominant partner is most likely going to be a male. If you are a gay female, your dominant partner is most likely going to be female. It's not about submitting to a man... It is about submitting. There are subs and Doms in all areas of sexuality. Gay, straight, bi, poly... Everywhere.

Thirdly, and probably most importantly, BDSM is not abuse. It isn't. It is healthy, consensual fun between two adults. The difference and it's a MASSIVE one, is the word consent. The Dominant partner is not taking anything without permission. They are not doing anything that has not been agreed to prior. They have been given the gift of your submission and that is something a true Dominant will treasure, and treat with the utmost care and respect. It is a huge responsibility to be in charge of someone's power, and yet, in a true BDSM setting, as much as it may not seem so from an outside perspective, the submissive has ALL the power.
They control the level of play, the boundaries in which they have set in place, they are in control of how far it goes, and the minute they want it to stop, it stops.

BDSM is not all about mouth gags and whips either. Sure, some people love that, and that's great, but if someone just wants to hurt you, and doesn't care about your feelings or your pleasure, then that is abuse. BDSM is actually very equal. The pleasure you derive from your submission should be equal to the pleasure the Dominant gets from being dominating. Because the thing is, pain isn't necessarily all that bad a thing. I love certain sorts of pain. And not just sexual stuff.

I love the pain of getting a tattoo. I love that omg-I've-just-boxed-for-an-hour-and-my-arms-are-gonna-fall-off pain. And sometimes I love the feel of a nice hard slap on my arse when I'm having sex. It's a totally different sort of pain that if someone was to randomly come up to me and slap me on the arse. Why? Well because it is intimate. It is a shared experience with someone I choose to be intimate with. And, like the amazing goodness of salted caramel, its the salty and sweet combination of pleasure and pain that just... Well... It works! It also works the other way round too. I enjoy being the Dominant side too and having someone else's pleasure and trust in my hands. It's a power trip in a very different way. It is a massive responsibility too, and it is up to me to make sure their pleasure is key, because knowing they're loving it... That's what gives me pleasure.

Look at it this way. When we kiss we often touch tongues. That's hot. That's sexy! But if some random person came up to you and just stuck their tongue in your mouth it would be gross. It would be rude. It would be abuse. But kissing isn't any of those things. Because you are mutually consenting to put tongues in each other's mouths.

I can totally get why it can seem so hard to understand from the outside, when all you have to go on is things like bad porn and Fifty Shades. The main problem with this book and film lies in the consent gauge. There are many many times where it feels like Ana is being controlled in ways she has not consented to nor feels comfortable with, and Christian Grey doesn't give a crap. It's all about him. That's abuse. Not BDSM. And that's what has got the BDSM community in such a rage about it. It doesn't portray a healthy relationship in any way.

I am going to leave you with the words of a good mate of mine, Dan. She not only holds a rather important managerial role in a large company, she is also a trained BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) fighter who mentors young Islamic women in BJJ and self defence and self confidence. She is a powerful and strong-minded feminist with a wicked sense of humour, a determined sense of self and social justice. She also lives in a full-time submissive relationship with her Dominant partner.

As a manager, I spend most of my days telling people what to do. Whilst it's rewarding, it occurred to me that I needed something in my life to offset being so darn dominant. Enter my relationship dynamic. It was my choice to be utterly submissive to the man I love. It's my choice to relinquish all control and allow Him to call the shots with my body, mind and soul, especially in the bedroom. He coaches me through tricky situations, and gives me praise when I excel. We talk about EVERYTHING - sexual limitations, feelings, health - everything. Its so easy because there is never a power struggle. We are both feminists. This is, by far, the most rewarding relationship and experience of my life. My happiness level is off the chart. [my Dom] and I train together too so feel free to mention that I'm as strong as fuck, and frequently kick His sexy arse.”

Equality. Consent. Love. Trust. Understanding. What all strong relationships are built on. How you choose to express it and what you choose to do in the bedroom is entirely your choice and your prerogative. It's not up to anyone else to tell you what you like or don't like. Or what is degrading or not. It is only degrading if YOU feel degraded by it, not because someone else does. That's like me expecting you not to eat chocolate because I am on a diet. It just doesn't work that way. And yet, when it comes to sex, everyone is an expert in telling everyone else what they should and should not be enjoying or liking. And, unfortunately, sometimes feminists can be the worst at that.
Don't listen to it. It's between you and the people you choose to share it with. No one else. 
So go get exploring, and experimenting and remember, it's all about consent. 


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