There. I said it. Blindfold me (please) and call in the feminist firing squad. Ban me from Cuntry Living now. I find liberation in being held down, spanked, spat on, slapped in the face and fucked so hard I can feel it the next day. I enjoy acting out men’s fantasies with my body. I enjoy him calling me a “good girl” and being sent obscene messages during lectures. Sometimes I slap him back to provoke him into slapping me harder. That does not make me a bad feminist.
The first illusion people have is that BDSM and similar vices are about abuse (thanks E.L. James). There might not be fifty shades of consent, but there is certainly a world of difference between being dominated and ‘abuse’. For starters, BDSM necessarily involves mutual consent from both or all parties. If that doesn’t convince you, allow for my personal experience: recently, a partner entered me a little too quickly; noticing my wincing he stopped and proceeded to apologise; “Sorry! I don’t want to hurt you.”
This illustrates my point perfectly. Aggressive sexual practice, whether BDSM or otherwise, is not about mindless violence against women. Whilst he wants to be rough with me and I want him to be rough, there is mutual consent. Some might be horrified at the idea that I get pleasure from this. For me there is a certain thrill to being held down and fucked. If that’s not for you, great, I hope you have an enjoyable and fulfilling sex life. But please – don’t police mine just because it does not fit into your concept of what is pleasurable.
The second illusion is that people who enjoy BDSM are somehow ‘fucked up’. Maybe they have ‘daddy issues’. Maybe they were abused as children. Or maybe you’re jumping to prejudiced, sexist conclusions about things you don’t understand. For one thing, I’ve had some beautiful, lovely, sensual experiences with both men and women which would be considered normal or ‘vanilla’ by most. Not sure that’s the mark of an irredeemable deviant. And the point hardly needs making that not all submissive women have been through sexual (or other) trauma. Some women just, you know, enjoy it. People have different preferences in everything from food to television. And there doesn’t have to be some long, navel-gazing justification for that.
But let’s talk about actual abuse. Because it happens, and it happens to people who enjoy, or later come to enjoy, BDSM. I’ve also had some pretty vile experiences with men who considered themselves entitled to my body; men who were aggressive and violent towards me with no semblance of consent, with no care for me at all. Yes, it was abuse. And yeah, I recognise it as such.
The fact that I’ve been through some grim ordeals in the bedroom, and now favour submissive sex (actually, I enjoy playing around with sub/dom roles, not that it’s any of your business) – does that matter? Is it true that, because the preferences of some women have (arguably) arisen from traumatic experiences, they should be considered invalid or self-destructive
Absolutely fucking not. One of the very few things I clung to, whilst recovering from violent assault earlier this year, was consensual sex with a partner who cared about and respected me. And no, ‘consensual’ does not entail missionary-position-with-the-lights-off. And, ultimately, I am recovering. I’m miles better. In fact, I had the roughest sex of my life with a lovely young man I met off Tinder a few weeks ago, and it was (I know you’re reading this, don’t get too excited) good. It helped.
Sublimating trauma into positive, empowering experiences is one of the most liberating things I’ve ever discovered. Learning to trust someone again in such a vulnerable moment has been a rough ride (excuse the pun), but thoroughly rewarding. This was the least abusive sexual experience I’ve ever had. If I’d asked him (seriously) to stop, he would have done so in a heartbeat – and without making me feel guilty or ashamed. He made me feel powerful.
Power is a curious thing. When it’s previously been stolen from you, one way of coping with that is to reclaim it by yielding it in a manner chosen by you, with which you are comfortable, and in which you feel safe. By exerting that kind of control (even if, to an outsider, it looks like the opposite) some people can begin to recover from trauma and take charge of their own life, and their own body, for the first time. Violent sex can, of course, be self-destructive. Violent sex can also be a beautiful, powerful coping mechanism.
There exist harmful BDSM relationships in the same way that there exist non-BDSM harmful relationships. Conflating the two, and denying that BDSM can be empowering or liberating for women, is both ignorant and dangerous.