Also appears at elephantjournal – check it out!
Months ago I posted an article on myths about BDSM, and a fan responded saying she knew if she passed along this piece, folks who identify as feminists would attack it on a number of grounds. So here are my responses to Feminist myths about BDSM – just for you fellow feminists, inspired by super-fan, Rachel:
With the increasing media attention to BDSM, it’s more important than ever to be clear on what BDSM/kink is and is not. With the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey the kink community was caught between simultaneously wanting to promote the attention and increased acceptance of kink lifestyles but also wanting to dispel the aspects of this portrayal they saw as unrealistic. In my feminist circles, folks also seem to struggle a lot with wanting to accept women’s choices of sexual expression, but having concerns about BDSM being inherently oppressive to women. As a sex-positive feminist who is training to be a sex therapist, I feel many of these concerns grow out of misinformation about what kink is and what “causes” folks to be into it. In order to make space for feminists who are part of the kink community, be good allies to those with diverse sexual interests and preferences, and work to continue to expand, rather than limit the possibilities for sexual expression, I believe we need to be clearer about what kink is and isn’t.
1)MYTH: BDSM is Abuse and/or Oppressive to women.
For our own sake, and in order to support folks in the Kink/BDSM communities, we have got to learn to differentiate between fantasy and reality, consent and non-consent, and understand the concept of play. The BDSM motto is “safe, sane and consenual.” We’ll get to the “safe” later. The sane is there because one must be mentally healthy to fully consent. So if BDSM requires consent by a sane individual, insisting it is abusive or oppressive means insisting a female engaging in it is ill-equipped to give consent.
Assuming a woman who consents is agreeing to abuse or oppression is no better than assuming a women who chooses to have an abortion can’t be trusted to understand or make that decision. I think many feminists (and others) wonder how someone with self-respect would consent to BDSM because they fail to distinguish between a behavior happening during abuse, and the same behavior occurring in another context. I allow my toddlers to swat at me, bite me, and kick me in the face. I wouldn’t let my co-worker do those things. Holding down a two year old to change her diaper is not the same as holding down a child to sexually abuse her. So why then, would we assume being tied up by a sexual partner with full, open communication and consent is the same as being tied up during a sexual assault? There is a fundamental difference. Being tied up, handcuffed, spanked, flogged, gagged, is all about context.