The Moral Puzzles of Weird Feminists | Critical conversations
Editor’s note: Some sources have chosen to use a pseudonym or remove their last name for reasons of anonymity. This article deals with some explicit topics, including mentions of BDSM, kinks, and rape fantasies.
What if I told you that you could be a feminist and still have sex?
“Well, sure,” you would probably say. A lot of people are feminists, and a lot of people have sex. Chances are there is a fair amount of overlap between the two groups.
But what if I told you that you could be a feminist while enjoying kinky sex? Or bondage, domination / discipline and submission / sadomasochism (BDSM)? Or role play? Or fantasies of being exploited by your partner? Would that give you a break?
For me it is. Or he did, before I did any research.
I am a feminist and consider myself sexually liberated. As a person who believes in gender equality, is it morally wrong for me to experience power dynamics in the bedroom? Should I ever consider myself inferior (or superior, for that matter) to someone else, even if I’m just pretending and it’s for my own pleasure and that of my partner?
It turns out that gender and political or personal beliefs can exist in totally different universes. It’s really just a matter of how you think about it.
Associate Professor Nicole McNichols teaches the famous PSYCH 210: The Diversity of Human Sexuality, which attracts over 1,000 students per term. McNichols also runs an educational center Instagram account all about sex and relationships. McNichols explained that morality and sex can exist totally separately.
“[Sex] is a fantastic country; you can enjoy really kinky sex and be absolutely feminist, ”McNichols said. “These two things don’t contradict each other, they exist in completely different fields.”
McNichols also taught me how to fight feminism and experiment sexually, describing how kink can, in fact, be stimulating.
“As a feminist, I think you should have the right to enjoy your sexual fantasies and the kind of sex you want to have without feeling judgmental, including judgment of yourself,” McNichols said. “Women are so used to being socialized to… accept this absurd notion that we should take care of other people’s feelings all the time and that we should let go of our own sense of what makes us happy… And everyone has a right. , I think, to enjoy the kind of sex he wants to enjoy.
Donnie is an instructor at a Seattle-based kink education company and agreed with McNichols. He also explained how BDSM can be a feminist act for women regardless of what type of sex they are engaging in.
“Some people argue that being comfortably submissive is an act of feminism because it goes against what society tells women about how to be,” Donnie said. “By choosing submission, they free themselves from the expectations of others around them.”
While it can be, BDSM and kinky sex should be approached with caution. Finding a partner who is interested in and respects your fantasies can be a challenge.
Annie, a senior, testified about the difficulties she encountered as a single person who enjoys kink.
“As a college-aged woman, I don’t feel safe exploring these issues with someone I don’t know very well,” she said. “The hook-up is not the right place for that. I’ve tried this before and it just left me feeling pretty exploited.
However, Annie has found solace in the online kink communities that she began to explore during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those aimed at gay people.
“[Queer spaces were] so much more tolerant, and a lot of the things that made me uncomfortable just weren’t there in the first place, like all the sexist and patriarchal ideas of who should be the [default] submitted [person]”Said Annie. “I thought it was really fun because… you see pictures of people of all gender being who they want to be or who they want to play with… It was so much more open-minded.”
It’s important to keep in mind that BDSM can be more than a partnership between a dominant man and a submissive woman. This default idea of what BDSM should be is inherently sexist. Taking on heterosexuality and gender (cis) roles in the bedroom leaves out so many individuals who can and should be included in the conversation around BDSM.
When discussing perverts and BDSM in a sex-positive way, it’s imperative to remember that kinky sex, like all sex, is not without its risks. Because BDSM involves potentially harmful or unsafe practices, McNichols explained the importance of consent.
“There must be safe words or hand signals to signify consent is given,” McNichols said. “It must be given continuously throughout the experience. ”
Donnie also spoke about the role of consent, especially since it varies based on personal experience.
“Consent in itself has its own principles that have to be there for it to be actual consent,” Donnie said in an email. “He must be informed, he must be revocable, etc.” Once the actual consent is there it really becomes a personal experience. No one outside of this should be able to say in a [black-and-white] way whether it is good or bad.
I understand where Donnie and McNichols are coming from and believe their opinions are informed and valid. There is always a question for me, however, as to when the fantasies involve something that we would normally view as assault.
In “Tell Me What You Want”, Justin Lehmiller discusses the amazing frequency where people fantasize about rape. According to Lehmiller, 24% of women, 11.5% of men, and 31% of non-binary participants said they often fantasized about rape.
“[Rape fantasies] holding symbolic values - it’s the desire to be wanted so much that the other person loses control, ”McNichols said.
“If you really think about it, [people] don’t really fantasize about rape as a harmful crime, ”Donnie said in an email. “They fantasize about some kind of rough sex where they are completely dominated by their sexual partner. From what I hear from people, they don’t fantasize about being raped by someone they find physically repulsive, nor about having the [long-term] physical or emotional damage that usually results from rape.
Well, I thought, that fixes that. If I learned anything from these discussions, it’s that fantasies can just be fantasies. If someone wants to be submissive in the bedroom, that does not necessarily mean that they want to be submissive outside the bedroom. While it could mean that, it shouldn’t be assumed. When that line of assumption is crossed, there is a problem. All types of sex – not just kinky sex – have a time and place. If adults communicate, consent, and are able to make informed decisions about their sexuality, then I see no problem experimenting in the bedroom with ideas and practices that are taboo elsewhere.
Donnie, Annie and McNichols have seriously opened my eyes to what it means to be a feminist who has sex. So, yes, I answer my original question, you can still be a feminist and enjoy the wide variety of fascinating experiences that the worlds of kink and BDSM have to offer.
Contact writer Katie Newman at [email protected]: @katieinewman
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