People are talking, once again, about the relationship – and the potential conflict – between BDSM and feminism. To mark International Women's Day, Fetish.com asked author Zak Jane Keir to look at how BDSM empowers women to explore and play with their kinks and fantasies - and if you harbour kinky desires, can you still call yourself a feminist?

 

BDSM in the mainstream

First of all, bear in mind, if you’re thinking of the feminist criticisms levelled at the 50 Shades phenomenon, that the majority of BDSM practitioners hate it too. The story of Creepy Christian and Apathetic Ana illustrates a relationship that’s pretty abusive and unhealthy in the eyes of nearly everyone who knows anything about kink.  

But what that series of books and films did do, though, was bring the concept of bondage, spanking, dominance and erotic power play into the mainstream.  And enough women, despite rolling their eyes at the terrible prose style and dubious ethics of the story, found aspects of it that got them hot enough to want to experiment with kinky sex for themselves.
 

Kinky feminists views

My own experience of being a happy sexual deviant has never clashed with my feminist views, which may or may not be to do with the fact that I am dominant rather than submissive. But the BDSM scene is full of strong, smart, open-minded women who pursue what they want and relish their sexual autonomy, whether their preferences involve giving or receiving pain, pleasure or power. I asked around to see what other kinky feminists thought.

Hannah, who describes herself as submissive but occasionally a top, told me: “We don’t have to politically police our sexual desires. Just because I'm submissive in my relationship doesn’t mean I'm in any way inferior or submissive in any other area of life - in fact, I suspect people who know the “vanilla” Hannah may be surprised to learn that I am submissive because I certainly don’t act it anywhere else.”

Author, Sonni de Soto had this to say about kink roles and feminism: "I think feminism forces you approach your play differently depending on whether you’re a top or a bottom, for better and for worse. When I was young, I would hear from prominent feminists that my masochistic desires were a symptom of there being something wrong with me, from being mentally or emotionally broken to being a victim of the patriarchy. I still hear current, prominent, feminist voices telling me that. Those same voices tell those with sadistic or Dominant desires that they’re violent, abusive predators who are a danger to society."

Sonni de Soto.  Photo: stonescorpion.
Author Sonni de Soto on BDSM and feminism on International Women's DaySonni adds: "They also tell those with non-normative fetishes that they are weird or worthy of mockery. Thankfully, as I’ve grown, so has the relationship to BDSM and feminism, greatly because of the conversation between those in the kink community and those in the sex-positive feminist community and, most importantly, those who identify as being in both." 

"Now, we’re having nuanced and informed discussions that focus less on demonising certain acts or desires and the people who participate in them, and more on obtaining and maintaining consent between partners. I think the conversation has become vastly more productive and effective by telling bottoms and submissives that there is nothing wrong with them. They have the right to advocate for themselves, to want what they want, to go after it, and to walk away from those who cannot or won’t provide it.”


Kink and sex-positive feminism   

Another friend, who prefers to remain anonymous, said “I don’t see a problem with enjoying being dominated and being a feminist. For me, there’s an equality in BDSM in that; if I’m not enjoying myself, then all bets are off. And being dominated is liberating in that I can switch off my mind and give in to someone else’s desire, which I find a huge turn on. So, regarding satisfaction, it’s a win-win. I don’t subscribe to calling someone my master or being called a slave. It’s all in the mind for me and doesn’t need to be framed in that way.”

I have certainly found that most of the women I know on the kink scene, whatever their play preferences, are tough, smart, sensible and self-aware. Everyone I talked to stressed the importance of consent and negotiation when it comes to kink – an area in which the BDSM crowd are generally a long way ahead of mainstream dating. 

Sonni de Soto reckons that “Stats tell you, kinky people tend to be more educated, thoughtful, and engaged. And history shows that sex-positive feminism has helped make kink better, safer, and more socially acceptable than it was before, in the same way, that kink has helped make feminism more thoughtful, nuanced, and inclusive. The two owe a lot to each other. And, from my own experience, it’s hard to be in the kink community and to find kink partners if you are not, at some level, a feminist.”

Hannah was a little more cautious about kinky men’s approach, however. “I think men who are into kink are a broad cross-section of society; some are supportive of feminism, others, especially male doms, can be singularly unenlightened.”
 

Embracing kinky desires with feminist politics 

Overall, there is no good reason for rejecting your kinky desires as incompatible with your feminist politics. While you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do – and should always ignore anyone, particularly a man, who tells you that if you were a REAL submissive, or dominant, you would do THIS thing (which just happens to be what he wants from you). It’s okay to explore your fantasies and seek out suitable playmates. There are plenty of resources and a whole social scene out there.

For further reading on feminism and kink, particularly for the curious feminist, try Catherine Scott’s Thinking Kink, which addresses the whole issue of kinky feminists and their portrayal in the media, and their ownership of their sexuality.  Happy International Women's Day. 


Do you have an opinion on BDSM and feminism? Join for free and start a discussion in the forum.

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VictoriaBlisse

Posted

Amazing article, well written :) 

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Katiefox

Posted

Awesome article!:lick:

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