For years, people have looked at my blog and said, “Submissive feminist? Isn’t that an oxymoron?” To which I usually roll my eyes and do my best to explain that while it may seem like these two identities are opposites, they’re actually very intertwined. Submission, in what I consider its purest form, is feminist in nature. It is about one’s choice to act a certain way for amusement or sexual gratification.
Sure, there are plenty of problematic themes found in BDSM, but all aspects of life have their problems. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make kink a feminist act for yourself, or that kink is inherently anti-feminist. In fact, I believe that consensual BDSM is feminist at its core. It supports the values that feminism tries to uphold in many ways.
Here are just five ways that my personal submission upholds feminism.
1. Kink has a heavy focus on consent
I have often said that vanilla relationships could learn a thing or two from the core values of BDSM. The fact is, I feel more safe in a kink dynamic than I ever did in a vanilla relationship. Because of the nature of BDSM, safety needs to be a heavy focus. Scenes are often spelled out in advanced, with clearly defined limits that don’t even need to be kinky in nature. If I’m hooking up with someone kinky, I am always asked what kinds of limits I have and I always feel comfortable expressing them without fear of judgement. Never in a vanilla dynamic have I been directly asked for my limits, however vanilla some of them may be.
I’ve found that a discussion on consent is always easier when I’m with someone educated in BDSM. Dominants, in my experience, focus more on affirmative consent than vanilla folks I’ve dated or hooked up with. Affirmative consent is something that feminists often push for because there is a lot of confusion about what does and doesn’t constitute consent. The absence of a no is not a yes, and that confusion unfortunately leads to a lot of sexual assaults.
Dominants tend to focus on the guidance of the submissive, asking directly, “Is this okay? Do you like when I do this?” That approach to consent is important to people who may otherwise have a difficult time communicating their discomfort with certain activities. It makes them feel safe and supported and can actually prevent sexual assault.
In addition to using affirmative consent, the use of safewords or systems in BDSM is very effective in establishing a comfortable connection with someone. Having something like the traffic light system in place really reduces my anxiety in a sexual situation because I know I can clearly communicate my needs quickly and concisely. One could (and should!) absolutely adopt the traffic light system in a vanilla dynamic, but the fact that it’s already common practice in kink makes me feel safe.
2. Sex is pleasure-based
Vanilla, heterosexual sex has never been particularly enjoyable for me. Almost always, the focus was on my partner, and sex ended when they were finished. Introducing sex toys was almost always like pulling teeth–it seemed somehow offensive that I dared to not be satisfied by my partner alone. I felt like my pleasure didn’t matter as much as my partner’s.
In BDSM, toys are a big focus–and not just kink toys. I’m encouraged to introduce toys that get me off in bed and partners take pleasure in making me squirm, beg, and plead for more. My submission is a gateway to getting what I want in bed by giving my partner permission to “torture” me with sex toys that often intimidate more vanilla folks.
Just as kink encourages conversations about your limits, it also encourages people to share their kinks and desires. I’m allowed to discuss the things that get me off and because of that open line of communication, I’m able to more freely explore the things I want from sex. BDSM focuses so heavily on communication, which is truly is the best way to enhance sex, in my opinion.
3. My health is a priority
Feminism focuses on women’s health and wellbeing because our needs are often ignored or pushed aside. Too often, women are excused as being too emotional or clingy for needing affection after sex or in other intense situations. In kink, however, the concept of aftercare directly combats these stigmas and encourages submissives to express their needs. Aftercare often comes in the simple form of cuddling after a scene and praising the submissive for their efforts. This actively supports the emotional needs that people of every gender experience and often don’t get from their vanilla partners.
In addition to aftercare, kink dynamics support the well-being of submissives by encouraging healthy habits like self care. Dominants often feel protective of their submissives and take extra steps to show that they’re involved in keeping them safe and happy, even outside of a scene. Lots of D/s dynamics have protocols that involve behavior modification or discipline management to foster the well-being of the submissive. When I am with a Dominant partner, I am often looked after in a way that encourages healthy habits and is beneficial to my mental health.
4. Submission allows me to escape reality
Being a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man is a great and powerful thing, but even the strongest of us like a break every now and then. For women who have a lot of stress and responsibilities, being submissive can provide an escape–a mental vacation from the real world.
Overworked and underappreciated women, both in the workplace and at home, can benefit from not having to make a single decision in the span of a scene. Submission allows us to turn off our brains and rely on our partners to make choices for us. This relieves the stress of being a high-pressure boss or hyper-organized mother. Of course, we still have access to those safewords to ensure we’re being treated fairly.
Although some kinks may seem to go against feminist ideals, they can be very liberating for women who need to relax and know how to separate fantasy from reality. Sometimes being treated like an object in the bedroom helps me focus all my feminist energy on things that really need it. It allows me to surrender control in one area of my life, giving me an outlet where I can just let go. Of course, this is best done with feminist partners who can bringing you back to reality with aftercare that affirms your strength when the scene is over.
5. Kink spaces are very LGBT-friendly
Straight, cis partners are usually intimidated (or, for some reason, aroused) when they realize I’m queer. However, in the kink community, no one bats an eye. In fact, being queer may honestly be more common than being straight in some spaces, and I love that it feels that way.
I’ve never felt like my sexual orientation was judged or questioned by someone in the kink community, my trans partners were always welcome in kink spaces, and my being polyamorous was readily accepted. I didn’t have to hide who I was to anyone, and it was so empowering.
This is especially true for people who find themselves by exploring kinks that lead to evolutions in their gender or sexuality. For some trans folks, forming their sense of self started by toying with cross-dressing or sissification kinks. Of course, not all trans people had this experience or support those kinks, but it is important to note for those it did help. Likewise, some people who were able to explore threesomes or cuckolding attribute their exploration of kink to realizing they were queer. This is also true for men, including straight men, who were able to explore things like anal play without judgement or expectations. Being able to experiment with these things without the influence of toxic masculinity is very important.
Being able to exist as a fully out queer person in touch with my sexuality feels amazing. It makes every kink space feel like a feminist space, as well. Assumptions about gender roles are thrown out the window and people openly discuss their pronouns, identities, and relationship styles. When so many of us have to perform gender in a specific way or keep our orientation a secret in the real world, kink spaces are a comfort we don’t take for granted. They are feminist in nature, and they are necessary for our well-being.
All in all, I’ve discovered a deep connection between some of the features of BDSM and feminism. I feel safe during scenes and sexual experiences through discussions of limits and safewords, I’m prioritized and tended to by my Dominant during aftercare, and I’m comfortable giving up control in a way that brings me intense pleasure. Kink gives me a space to feel seen and understood, accepted for all that I am without judgment. I love having this outlet to explore all facets of my identity, when I spend so much time being self-sufficient and on my own. Everyone’s sense of feminism and identity is their own–and submission is big part of mine.
How does your kink role uphold feminism? Do you think there are any other ways BDSM promotes a space for women’s empowerment and equality of the sexes? Feel free to comment and share your own experiences!