I seem to be saying this a lot recently – it’s a symptom of being in lockdown and having limited external input these days – but I read something online that I felt the need to comment on.
Can I be submissive in the bedroom and still be a feminist?https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/aug/19/can-i-be-submissive-in-the-bedroom-and-still-be-a-feminist
If I exert control during sex, I don’t enjoy it. I prefer to lie back – but how do I square this with my beliefs?
When I read the headline and then the article it made no sense to me.
“Can you be a woman and a feminist and still enjoy being submissive during sex (with a man)”
The short answer is “Yes”.
The longer answer is “Yes of course you can. What turns you on has literally nothing to do with politics and social justice. Your personal sexual arousal is yours and yours alone”.
The real answer is “Why is this even a question?”.
I have over my years as a sex worker spent a lot of time listening to mostly women talking about feminism and what it means to them. Here’s what I have taken away from all of that:
Feminism is about fighting for equality for all people. It is not about “female dominance”.
Female dominance would be some kind of “matriarchy” – the opposite of the “patriarchy” that feminism fights. It is perhaps telling that so many people see others fighting for equality and assume (perhaps in bad faith) that what those people really want is dominance rather than equality.
So this is why the question seems to me to be a total non-sequitur. Nothing in feminism (the fight for gender equality) says that a woman, man, or any other gender identity can’t engage in what they enjoy in bed. The only way you could come to that conclusion is through a terribly misguided reading of feminism.
How can fighting to live in a society where no-one is treated differently because of their gender lead you to think that you can’t engage in a power exchange with your partner in your personal sex life? The two have literally nothing to do with each other – except if one person is deciding what is appropriate and what is not based on some assumption about gender roles in sexual relationships.
The irony here is that many powerful people regularly seek balance in their lives by expressing a submissive side of their personality through BSDM and other means.
We need to be more sophisticated in how we think about feminism and what it means to us and our personal relationships. With questions like this we are allowing ourselves to be drawn down to the level of the people who oppose equality – be it based on gender, race, ethnicity etc.
The people who oppose equality want to appear as the victim so that they have clear lines to object along – it’s literally impossible to call equality unfair, so they have to recast the demand for equality into a desire to oppress – the very thing that they themselves do to others.
So yes – you can be submissive, or dominant, or a switch, or none of the above in bed regardless of any other beliefs you may hold. It’s sex. Please just enjoy it.