So there’s been a lot of shit going down in the feminist blogosphere about an blog post I just got a chance to read on the Psychology Today website, authored by Ogi Ogas (of fandom survey fail fame) and Sai Gaddam. The post is called Why Feminism Is the Anti-Viagra, and despite requisite ass-covering, the premise is basically that gender equality is making sex suck for heterosexual women because women are wired to have submission fantasies.
I’m not going to try to respond directly to the article, though if you’d like to read a good response, you should try Jill’s Feminism makes boners sad or Thomas’s Inherent Female Submission Follies: Why Ogi Ogas Is Full of Shit. Instead, I want to share a perspective that is entirely anecdotal, and doesn’t prove anything about this hypothesis because I’m a queer person that does not live on the gender binary. I want to share it because it’s important to me as a submissive, as a feminist, and as someone who believes in the importance of sexual communication.
I fell into feminism late, at the age of 23. I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that all my negative sexual experiences occured before this date, and all the positive ones after. I don’t believe that feminism is a magic pill, but I do think that certain feminist resources, such as the anthology Yes Means Yes, as well as a slew of feminist blogs, can be eye-opening.
I’ve known that I was a submissive since the age of 13, and was raised female. I never had a problem with being submissive, but I did find it difficult to express when presented with an actual sexual partner. I started having sex at 19, with a male partner, and the sex ranged from boring and painful to me lying on my back wondering if this is what rape feels like, and then feeling guilty for having such an ugly thought about such a nice young man.
The defining characteristic of that sexual relationship was a lack of communication. I had submissive desires, but I didn’t express them because he was very “normal” and not very sexually motivated. I couldn’t imagine him having sexual kinks. I wanted to enjoy sex, and I encouraged it taking place, but it felt more like a duty. Pants off, do the deed, fake an orgasm, and about our merry way.
What changed, later in my life, is that eventually something snapped, and with the help of feminism and a considerable degree of choosiness regarding sexual partners, I learned to communicate my sexual desires frankly and honestly. My current sexual partners, and those I’ve had sex with on a more casual basis since discovering feminism, have been supportive of my submissiveness and made me feel safe in communicating those desires. I’ve felt far more empowered as a practicing submissive, having fantasies about being ordered and even forced almost everytime I’ve had partner sex, than I ever did in a more conventional sexual relationship.
My conclusion is that, for me at least, submission is entirely consistent with gender equality and with feminism. It’s a patriarchal, misogynist culture that makes it difficult for submissive women to communicate their desires to heterosexual cismale boyfriends, because there’s frankly no way of knowing what to expect. In a sexual culture where communication is discouraged, it’s entirely possible and even likely that a boyfriend will use the knowledge of a female’s sexual submission to humiliate, take advantage of, even assault her. Disclosing submissive fantasies requires a lot of trust, and knowledge that a relationship is a safe space to communicate, to be specific about desires and limits.
I also think that the researchers missed the point in another way. There’s a big difference between wanting to submit sexually and wanting to be completely overpowered or wanting to live in an unequal relationship. There’s nothing wrong with consensually choosing a TPE relationship, of course, but the tone of the article leads me to believe that the authors picture female sexual submission where a woman is fully fulfilling her desires as a situation where she has no control, gives up on any notions of feminism, and allows a man to fully overpower her in as many ways as possible.
There is, in fact, a middle ground. A heterosexual couple can work towards gender equality in their relationship and the wider world while also engaging in D/s play where the female submits. Not to beat a dead horse, but this is the whole point of a safeword and negotiation. Those safeguards, and the communication encouraged in many BDSM cultures, are entirely consistent with feminism. In an ideal world of gender equality, women would have a safe space to communicate submissive desires, submit to a dominant man, and not feel ashamed or guilty about it. Pipedream, maybe, but less so than the world where these researchers live.
This post was originally published on the blog Sex Positive Activism, which has now merged to become the sex & relationships section of Queer & Now.