Can You Be a Feminist AND Submissive?

A sexually submissive feminist activist sheds light on why being a sub doesn't conflict with being a bad ass feminista.

(An abridged version of this piece was published in Cosmopolitan Magazine on Monday 4th of September, 2017.)

Discliamer: The views in this piece reflect the opinion of the author. Feminism is diverse and there are many differing opinions on this subject.

Q. There’s a common viewpoint that you can’t be a feminist and submissive as it goes against everything feminism is about. Can a person be a feminist and a submissive?

Yes I've heard these comments on many occasions before, expressed by both men and women who when they learn of my sexual submissiveness in conversation after also knowing I'm a strong feminist activist, tell me things like "that's an oxymoron" or "you can't be a feminist and submissive. That's just being a hypocrite”, or even “how does that work?”  But you most certainly can be both an impassioned and empowered, unashamed and unabashed feminist whilst also being a delightfully servile submissive in the bedroom. I only know this because I am!

I feel extremely dominant in my everyday life, in my actions, in my thoughts, in everything from the way I look, to the way I speak, walk and behave. I've been described as "intimidating" far too many times to count, and I was even once told by a superior at work that I had an "imposing energy" and that I needed to tone myself down and "be softer". No-one would ever guess upon meeting me or by simply looking at me that I am a submissive. In fact, (people easily fooled by media-depicted stereotypes) assume I'm a dominatrix, what with my nearly six foot stature and strong disposition....I live in a constant state of empowerment in my general life. I'm confident, bold, outspoken and courageous. I'm decisive and always taking charge. And that is exactly why, in the realm of sexual expression, I delight in the opportunity to be able to relinquish power and allow someone else to take control for once. It's not only physically euphoric for me but it is also therapeutic and cathartic. It's an emotional and spiritual release as much as it is a sexual one.

And no, being a submissive does not go against anything that I believe in as a feminist, because as a feminist I have the right to determine exactly what I want in my sex life, and the art of submission is my choice. As a sex positive feminist I believe I not only have the right to, but that's it's essential for me, to be able to communicate specifically to my partner exactly what I want to experience sexually. People make the mistake of thinking submission means anything goes and you surrender, and consent goes out the window. On the contrary.  "Safe sane and consensual" is at the core of practicing BDSM. The submissive expresses exactly what they want the dominant to do, and it's all discussed in advance, prior to the scene, on an equal playing field with no power disparity. It is incredibly empowering as a woman, to communicate to your partner specifically what you want them to do in order to give you supreme sexual pleasure, and then have them obligingly carry out your desires. Why? Because for so long in history, women were taught to be silent about what they wanted sexually, that their desires were unworthy of consideration and that a 'good woman' needed to forgo her needs to pleasure and satisfy the man. Me telling my partner exactly what I want in bed is in and of itself, a rebellion of the patriarchy, because I'm saying, 'I have my needs, these are what they are, and I expect you to fulfill them for me'. I'm speaking up for what I want and it's coming from a place of confidence, power and strength.

Q. Is it only women who can be sexually submissive?

No, a person can be submissive irrespective of their gender. My best friend is a gay man who's 6 foot something and weighs about 110 kg. He owns two successful businesses and has a commanding and dominating presence when you meet him, and if you talk with him for a minute, you'll see straight away he's not one to suffer fools. But guess what? In his sexual life, he loves to be sexually dominated by a man!

....I also once knew a successful judge who loved to be belittled and humiliated in bed by women, and to be told he was "insignificant", "inferior" and "nothing", because all day at work and in the community he was revered and respected, and thus the stark contrast appealed to him in the bedroom. Why? Because it's creates the ying and yang balance. It's a powerful and pleasurable outlet to express parts of yourself you cannot in other areas of your life.

Q. Is it a preference for you that a man is in control in the bedroom?

I can enjoy equitable sex (with no power play) on a purely physical level, but it is when a man asserts dominant behaviours in the bedroom, then the sexual experience is taken to an entirely different level which amplifies pleasure in a way that's incomparable to vanilla sex. And it's not just the sensations, it's the mental stimulation and the psychology behind the actions that heightens the feelings and the experience for me. In fact, it doesn't even have to always be about sex at all. A subtle power play that's relatively non-sexual, to not-at-all-sexual, can awaken powerful responses within me.

Q. What is it about submissive treatment that appeals to you? Are there aspects of submission you specifically love?

Submission to me is a freeing experience that takes me to a different place. It lets me abandon my everyday self and activate a secret aspect of who I am. It allows me to be timid and docile, compliant and helpless, all of which I am not in my normal life. I've never been that sort of character...even as a child I was a strong and fearless girl who never cried and never showed she was scared. So being able to express emotions that I normally don't get to convey, and access elements of my personality that normally don't see the light of day is a liberating and nurturing experience that leaves me in a state of ecstasy. And again, it's got nothing to do with the sex act itself, because it doesn't even need to be about sex. It can be a simple instruction completely unrelated to sex such as telling me what to do or teaching me something.....or authoritative words whispered in my ear softly to remind me of my place or my purpose. These seemingly insignificant gestures can leave me utterly breathless....


Q. Is submission a role you would enact with a man you have just met or is it only within a relationship?  

I only have an interest in engaging in sexually submissive acts that put you in a very physically vulnerable position, with men I'm in a relationship with that has been long-term enough for me to entrust them wholeheartedly. This also applies to my enjoyment of sexual degradation and humiliation. I would never want a man who wasn't committed to me and didn't love me, to tell me sexually degrading sentiments. I couldn't have a one night stand or a causal date say devaluing things to me as it would not appeal to me and I would find it offensive. I'd only want that from someone who I knew didn't mean those words at all and whom I knew loved me and cared about me in real life, and was just acting out a fantasy for me. 

....But in general I will always try to create a power imbalance with the man I'm dating, whether it be a first date or a long term relationship, and of course I only seek out potential partners who seem to embody at least some sort of dominant characteristics.


Q. Have you ever experienced disapproval from others for having a submissive side?

I have found some people who lack open mindedness to be quite uncomfortable and concerned when I have revealed this sexual preference of mine. I've been told that engaging in BDSM is abuse, which is a very outdated and incorrect stereotype based on total misinformation and ignorance of the scene. I've also been asked things like: "how can you want someone to do that to you? " and "wanting to be treated like that is a form of self-harm stemming from low-self esteem".  But no, in fact it's the opposite for me.- I find myself being treated so well by people in my everyday life, adored and always taken care of....so much so that I need a little bit of consensual "mistreatment" played out so I can balance all the princess-like treatment out. Consensual minimising and devaluing in a sexual setting serves as a lovely contrast.

Q.Could submission be perceived as positively feminist because you're asking for what you want sexually, as opposed to pleasing the man's sexual desires?

Yes I do thinks it's positively feminist because I've had boyfriends in the past who did not identify as dominant at all, but just enacted the role and the dynamic purely to please me. My ex of four years was a terribly submissive man by nature and when I revealed to him my need for him to be dominant in bed with me, it took him quite a while to adjust to the role. It certainly wasn't his preference but his desire to please me and create a sexual dynamic that provided me with maximum eroticism, was what motivated him to play the part accordingly. I would never do what the man wanted unless it was what I wanted too. I would never do anything I wasn't comfortable doing, and I'd never do what I didn't want to do. I did that when I was in my very early twenties, and none of that was BDSM, that was sexual coercion and abuse.

Q.What submissive behaviours are most pleasurable for you?

Positions where the man is in control, definitely. I want to feel powerless, helpless and trapped. I want to feel his heavy weight against me and I want to feel like he's having his way with me.....I like to be disciplined......Choking excites me greatly. -Even someone placing their hand softly and subtly at my neck is extremely erotic to me. Then also, as mentioned earlier, it's in the words they use, the commands they issue, and the power they assert......I love being physically messed up by a man and I love rough sex. I need the man to sexually overpower me and create a scenario where I feel I am being ravished and taken by force. (Consensually of course, because I want to clarify that again).......It doesn't mean I don't like loving sex. It can start out that way but the power imbalance is essential for my deepest pleasures and psychological fulfillment.

*Everything detailed in this blog was discussed in the context of consensual behaviour. Consent is essential in all BDSM contexts.

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