Feminists Can Be Kinky Too

Not long ago, after having fairly rough and debauched sex with a certain man for the first time, he managed to ruin my period of post-coital relaxation with a question that, a few years ago, would have sent me running for the hills.

 

‘How can you like that and be a feminist?’

 

I instantly assume he’s joking, but look over to check, and it seems like a genuine question. It also seems like he has no idea how vastly he just reduced his chances of ever doing that again.

Now, this man is not your run of the mill, stereotypical, misogynist and has generally respected and discussed my frequent ruminations on human rights, such as feminism, without any of the usual ‘any hole’s a goal’ warning signs. When my initial wave of bile had subsided, I noticed his question didn’t even have a judgmental tone; he seemed to be genuinely wondering.

 

The problem with this question falls into three main categories;

1.     The assumption that acting in the manner I see fit impacts my ability to believe in equal rights for men and women.

2.     The presumption that the ‘that’ that I enjoyed is innately derogatory to women.

3.     The compunction to ask me to explain a sexual act, in which fantasy has a part to play, within the context of my feminism, and to assume it’s O.K. to do this.

 

First off, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a ‘bad feminist’, as feminism is generally both personal and societal, and those that would define themselves feminist therefore feel personally that they are deserving of equal rights and treatment. If you feel this way, then it’s your prerogative to act in whatever manner you see fit, and as we’re all wonderfully different little snowflakes, this can mean acting in a wide variety of ways which would make other people, feminists and otherwise, uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean that any one of us is more right than any one else, only that one of our valuable human rights, oft transgressed, is the right to conduct ourselves as we please, without fear from judgment based on our gender, race, socio-economic status and so forth. To judge a woman as a ‘bad feminist’ is to take away her right to do this, because you have deemed her actions ill-fitting according to your view of how a feminist should conduct themselves, and according to your views therefore on how a woman should conduct themselves. I have, after years of struggling with it due to these kinds of assumptions, now accepted that my enjoyment of submissive role-play during sex is entirely in keeping with the whole that is my feminist self. The very fact that I, or the many others similar to me, feel this way and have deduced this after, what is always in such cases, a long road of questions, should be enough to make someone about to judge those acts to think twice. The woman, or man, you are about to question on their sexual preference has probably questioned themselves ten times more rigorously and will, hopefully, have come to their own reasoning on the matter. This is because sex, particularly if you prefer to get a bit kinky, is still a taboo, and still synonymous with guilt for a wide range of people. In addition, sex often presents sides of people they wouldn’t always show the world, as they are supposed to be free of their inhibitions. So, naturally, people will question the sides of themselves that they present when they’re ‘free’ of their inhibitions, and with the helpful dollop of guilt society adds, this questioning will most likely be thorough. If you happen to not be a dominant, fairly vanilla, heterosexual male, then the portion of societal guilt is larger, and if you happen to also have a belief in your own rights to enjoy whatever you enjoy, then it seems inevitable that you will consider and thoroughly work through this guilt so as to reconcile your enjoyment with your right to enjoy.

 

Essentially, this means the response to whatever well meaning question one asks on whether a persons sexual preferences are ‘allowed’ by their belief in their right to act freely, will be either brief (followed by never seeing that person again) or an exasperated, but well researched, argument detailing exactly what is wrong with that question. In my case, I chose the former, and feel a little cruel for dismissing the question, which was probably not meant to make me want to cut his balls off, and so here I will present the latter.

 

2. The presumption that the ‘that’ that I enjoyed is innately derogatory to women.

 

Without getting too specific, the reason this man felt compelled to question me was because I enjoyed playing a sexually submissive role when we had sex, and it can get a little rough. Within his view of society, as a somewhat modern man, this may have caused him some confliction; women are meant to be respected, but I’m pulling her hair, does that mean she doesn’t want my respect? So she doesn’t respect herself? But what about feminism? Does this make me a misogynist?

 

No, dear, pulling my hair and essentially doing what I would like you to does not make you a misogynist. (Obviously this is only within the context that I was encouraging and enjoying this, otherwise this would be a different story.) Questioning my ability to decide what I am O.K. with during sex? That, I’m not quite sure about…

 

Way back in 1914, Mina Loy wrote this thing called the ‘Feminist Manifesto’. She perceived a particular barrier preventing equality between men and women: virtue. Loy recommends the surgical removal of virginity at puberty, as she see’s virtue as only a trade-off in the marriage contract for economic security. As at this time Loy and her fellow women couldn’t jump straight into securing economic security for themselves very easily, it didn’t look like the balance would be redressed by tipping the scales in this way any time soon (they still haven’t tipped a century later), so assumed virtue must be destroyed first. It’s this perceived virtue, Loy and others argued, that prevents women being accepted into many areas of society – the army, politics, manual labour, boxing, etc – for ‘their own good’. Preserving this virtue involves restricting women’s’ movements, rights, voices, and holding high importance in this virtue only brings further insult to women who are sexually assaulted (and adds to the convoluted validation of rape in some cultures as a punishment). Even in the 15th century, famous intellectual, patron of the arts, author and courtesan Ninon de L'Enclos said ‘feminine virtue is nothing but a convenient masculine invention’ – and she was even seen fit to advise the French royalty. Pity nowadays both Loy and Ninon’s advice is vastly ignored. I can’t see Jenna Jameson or Sasha Grey becoming the next Governor of California, but a male ex porn star, and topless model, did. Why does it make society so much less comfortable to see a woman’s body? Or a woman acting sexually?

 

If we forget this ‘virtue’, marriage is not a man buying a woman’s virginity, it’s a beautiful union between two people, and sex becomes not just a woman conceding to a mans desire, but can be a damn good experience for you both. To assume ‘virtue’ is to assume this desire doesn’t exist. This assumption of male desire over female is not, as some argue, based in age old tradition; it’s actually reversed since Classical Greek times, when women were believed to have a higher sexual appetite.

 

A little after Loy, Anais Nin’s diaries and erotica showed, specifically submissive, sexual desire in a women exquisitely honestly. Nin spoke frankly about how she enjoyed relinquishing control in the bedroom, and came up with what should have been my response when questioned on my desire vs. my feminism:

 

“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.”

 

This is perhaps why I felt sorry for the man asking me this question. He was essentially fearful and confused; seeing himself as dominant male, therefore in charge of protecting my female virtue, and as predatorily desirous (according to society). However, as we’ve seen, both the idea of the more sexually desiring male, and that of female virtue, are utter bollocks. People like what they like in the bedroom and, as my third point attests, they probably know why. And, if they don’t know why, they probably don’t want to be asked immediately after sex. Someone with courage, and respect for their partner, knows better than to question how they choose to conduct themselves in the bedroom/kitchen/forest/club toilet. I don’t think someone who asks this question is necessarily trying to be disrespectful, they’ve just misunderstood feminism, and reevaluating this could lead to more fun and orgasms all round. People fight over meanings of Feminism constantly, but in each new representation it still supports any woman who is assertive and dominant being so, but a feminist should not be a particular type of woman, it is all people who believe in equality. Each person should be allowed to make their own choices and respected for those they choose. That, to me, appears to be equal rights. No guilt on either side. So pull my hair and call me names, as long as you have the strength of character, and respect, to realize that afterwards I will remain a feminist; whether hog-tied on your floor, or giving a presentation to my boss, my belief in human rights remains intact. Or, let your other half beat your ass, without questioning your masculinity or their virtue. Let’s play with our roles; after all, it’s a fantasy isn’t it? Then we can all have our cake, and eat it too. 

This article was first published anonymously for Femmeuary, the Brighton Feminist Collective magazine and blog here: http://femmeuary.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/feminists-can-be-kinky-too/