Feminist BDSM

    • This question came from a Facebook friend: Hi Babeland! I have spent many a-night pondering with my female housemate how female feminists fit into the BDSM world. We were both intrigued about the subject of BDSM, but somehow always came back to the conclusion that we would feel more comfortable if our "master" was actually a "mistress." Why? The answer is not simply AHA…QUEERNESS. Yes, we are both queer and enjoy the sexual presence of women as well as men, but this cannot, and is not, the sole answer. It has to be more complex. We have both experienced sexual trauma from men in the past. Could the answer be the history of our own personal experiences? Does it have to do with the patriarchal power relationships we experience everyday as non-males? I'm beginning to feel the interconnectedness of all of these answers. Since these conversations with my housemate, I have played around in the BDSM world. Mainly through online porn watching and one live play date with a Craigslist man, which involved blindfolds, ropes, cuffs, vibrators, and spanking/slapping…and left me feeling a bit strange. I like watching male dominants and female submissives, as well as female dominants and female submissives via bondage porn sites. But, while watching the former, I always felt pangs of guilt.  This is not guilt that one might feel towards the general enjoyment of BDSM. This guilt is not caused by our "sex-phobic culture." I think it might go deeper than that. Am I finding guilt from other women's consented sexual abuse? Is abuse even the correct word? How can I tell that what I watch online is consensual?? I think that is what scares me the most. Are these power relationships in bed simply perpetuating gender hierarchies outside of the bedroom? How does a feminist fit into the BDSM world?

    • Rachel Venning, Babeland Co-Founder, responds: Feminist women who like BDSM, especially those who are submissive or masochistic with male dominants, or even if they just like fantasizing about or watching porn on that theme, are sometimes left with a queer feeling, and not queer in a good way. More like guilty. But please don’t fret if you have a taste for the bottom. Thousands, if not millions of strong-minded women have gone down this same path before.  And after years of sister vs. sister debate, aka “the porn wars,” the answer turns out to be pretty simple.
       
      The key to “feminist” sex is consent. Meaning that each participant gives a meaningful yes, and can at any point switch to a no. It can be interesting to consider why we like certain things- being tied up, or shiny red fingernails, or the smell of leather, all that stuff. Or ocean breezes and vanilla-scented massage lotion for that matter. And if you enjoy unpacking your unconscious, go right ahead and analyze away. Your personal history may be part of it, or you may just be "wired that way." But don’t beat yourself up about your desire. Enjoy the arousal. Just as energy is created when two objects of different polarity (positive and negative) come together, sexual energy is also created by difference. And one way of making that exciting sexual spark happen is to create the polarity of a BDSM dynamic.
       
      In terms of porn, it is difficult to know what the standards of consent were on a production. The best bet is to find filmmakers who espouse the same high standards of consent that you want in your own life. Start your search atwww.madisonbound.com (that's Madison pictured above!) As porn consumers, we do have a responsibility to pay attention to the working conditions of the performers. Just as we should care about working conditions for all the workers in the chain of production of our consumer goods.

    • If a person has meaningful consent, then it is not abuse.

      One more thing. You will not be the lone feminist if you decide to explore the BDSM world. Maybe it’s because kinky folks have had to spend more time thinking/ articulating their desire, but there are a lot of powerful, righteous, fierce feminists in the scene, on both ends of the whip.

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