I believe that we are all complex creatures full of contradictions and dualities that compliment and oppose each other. Though, in some cases, this dichotomy can lead to conflict. Conflict within ourselves or conflict with those who support only one side of this combination. One such issue within my own personal conflicts is my belief that all people are equal and my affinity for being sexually submissive. I've often wondered can a woman identify sexually as submissive and still consider herself a feminist, without being a hypocrite?
Of course, this is no simple question to answer and I think everyone has different variables to weigh when deciding where they stand on the issue. Perhaps the best step is to start by explaining how I identify with feminism.
Simply put, I believe women are equal to men and deserve to be treated as such. I believe this because I know all people are equal and deserve to be treated as such. We have the right to the same justices and protections. We have an obligation to defend and secure justice for those who cannot do it themselves.
There are those who identify themselves as feminist (1st wave, 2nd wave, 3rd wave, militant - whatever category they feel they fit in best, if any at all) and believe that a woman who participates in submissive sexual behavior, such as Master/slave or BDSM play, is only crippling the progress of womanhood as a whole. There are also those who believe that BDSM is a male-generated form of sexuality and that by participating, a woman is succumbing to this tradition. This was a major issue during the 60s and 70s and lead to conflict between different sects of feminism or some feminists organizations and the pornography industry.
I resent the idea that women who engage in BDSM are doing so because they are conforming to a male generated fantasy. This line of thinking denies women who enjoy BDSM from any credit for discovering what turns them on. It assumes that in a strictly female society, BDSM would not exist. It also furthers the gender stereotype that only woman play the submissive role in the BDSM community when, in fact, it is extremely varied. Not only do some men prefer being the submissive as opposed to dominant but there are many people who switch between both. Of course, this is assuming both genders are involved. BDSM is prevalent in both gay and lesbian communities. Personally, I know that I did not need a man/society/the media to tell me what aroused me. It was inherent. It felt rooted within me, much like the rest of my sexuality. I did not question it but only awaited the time and place to discover and explore this natural affinity. Assuming that a woman can only learn submission from a man/society/the media robs her of any ownership or responsibility of her own sexuality.
There are those who even discourage women being submissive because of their strong conviction that this has an impact on women's progress as a whole. But, if those who believed that truly wanted equality, wouldn't they be encouraging all people not to partake in BDSM, regardless of gender? Or, do they believe it is okay for a man to play that role? In that case, isn't the man enjoying a privilege that has been denied to women by the very people who were trying to ensure their equality? Where is the fairness in that?
I'd argue that my being a strong female has actually helped me develop a healthy perspective on my sexuality and I've channeled this into my preference for being a submissive. Any woman with a poor self esteem or a dysfunctional view of their sexual worth is going to find being a submissive exhausting and unfulfilled. My worth as a human being is not decided on my worth as a sex object. Sure, I may subject myself to what others may consider horrendous treatment and what others may view as submitting to my partner's will. Considering oneself a feminist and also a submissive does not have to be a dichotomous situation. In fact, the juxtaposition of both these traits can strengthen each other. Not only does my knowledge that I am worthy of any person's attention and respect make me a great submissive, but knowing myself so well and owning my sexuality encourages a feeling of wholeness and completeness in the world outside my bedroom.
Some people do not fully comprehend the active communication that goes on between a Dom and sub, even when no words are spoken. It may seem demeaning to an outsider but there is a huge amount of respect and trust exchanged between those involved in a BDSM relationship. Most might assume that it is only the sub who respects their partner, but it truly starts with the Dom earning the sub's respect and consent. And, in the end, it is the sub who holds all the power. The sub can simply utter one word and everything comes to a halt. It may seem odd to those unfamiliar with this subculture that the common credence is "Safe, Sane and Consensual"
My role in feminism is ensuring that my gender is viewed upon with equal regard and respect. That I earn equal pay for equal work and that I enjoy the same rights and privileges that a man may in the same position. That means enjoying the same rights and privileges in my work, my government, my community and my bedroom. If we deny women the right to explore their sexuality because they feel judged, we deny them the ownership of their bodies. If we can vote, run for office and own land, we should be able to own our orgasm too.