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Feminism and BDSM: Is Being Submissive Less Feminist?

Feminism and BDSM: can you be submissive and feminist at the same time?


Feminism and BDSM: Are we talking about the two terms whose understanding is so fluid and subjective that they keep on changing and evolving with every passing day? Well yes. And perhaps this is the reason why the relationship between these two terms are so confusing. Most feminists often see BDSM as antifeminist as they find the submission as antifeministic.

And while the tussle between the feministic views and BDSM stays, the perception of BDSM created in the pop culture and essentially in 50 Shades of Grey is what adds to the negativity. But before we move forward, let’s break down the meanings of BDSM.

What is BDSM?

BDSM – ‘bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. ‘sadomasochism’.

The BDSM sex could mean practising –

Bondage: Keeping the partner in bondage, restricting the freedom of movement. Couples often use handcuffs, ropes etc.

Discipline: A discipline that’s imposing dominance, set by the dominant partner such as pre-decided punishments

Dominance: The act of physical dominance over the partner

Submission: The act of being submissive and facing dominance

Sadism and Masochism (or Sadomasochism): Sadism (inflicting pain) or masochism (receiving pain), both physical and mental, that gives pleasure to the partner.

The act of BDSM requires one of the two partners to play the dominant role. The other partner will be submissive. The couples who practise BDSM sex often define and decide the limitations beforehand.

Now, coming to the relation between feminism and BDSM, the question – is BDSM antifeminist? Well, there are several previews, some feminists believe BDSM as a valid form of expression of female sexuality.

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Feminism and being submissive

Feminists often find BDSM as antifeminist because most often, it’s the female partner who performs the submissive role. The idea of being submissive, giving in front of the power (men) is what appears to be antifeminist.

Apart from this, several women crave to be submissive. An article in Cosmopolitan suggests nearly 65 per cent of women reported fantasies about sexual submission. More than 52% of women claimed bondage makes them feel good, 36% like spanking and 28.9% fantasise about being forced to have sex.

While women do have desires to be submissive, feminists who have the want of becoming submissive in sexual activities often start questioning their feminism. They find suppressing their want to be submissive and see BDSM as antifeminist.

But is being submissive, or choosing BDSM antifeminist?

Feminism is a concept which obviously is evolving over time. What the common idea of feminism and feminist movements suggest is that feminism should be empowering women to make their own choices. The idea that women should not be submissive is what is problematic. Choosing BDSM, choosing to remain submissive is a choice that women should be making for themselves on the basis of what they want.

And if judging and questioning someone’s feminism on the basis of what they are choosing for themselves is concerned, then that is perhaps not what feminist movements call for.

The question of being gratified

Feminism is about having sexual liberty. It’s about choosing how they would like to be gratified. If feminists feel gratified in being submissive, then can that be observed as wrong? And won’t the idea of feminism fall through if it fails to welcome women who want and feel gratified with BDSM sex. If feminism is about allowing women to gratify themselves in the ways they want, feminism should be suggestive of explaining to women what BDSM is, and letting them make a choice for BDSM or not.

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Ishika Aggarwal

Can write, shoot, listen, talk and procrastinate. A feminist at heart, Ishika is an avid writer and multimedia person who loves talking about women, realism, and society. When not working she is either seen watching films or making one.

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