Can A Feminist Be Submissive, Too? How Feminist Politics Support My Kinky Sexual Desires

I didn’t always know that I was a feminist — or that I was a submissive. Growing up in a rather conservative family in southern Ohio, neither of those words were ones that I heard at the dinner table. But as I grew older, my adolescent dreams and fantasies often led me into kinky waters. Although I felt awkward in my body through my early teen years, I felt at ease as I would stare out the school bus window, looking past the suburban landscape and imagining a world of taboo fantasies that provided an odd comfort to me — a hidden treasure of a world that only I could access.

My feminist identity began to develop in high school, as well, as I ravenously read through every feminist piece of literature that I could get my hands on, and spent my time worshiping Sylvia Plath, Yoko Ono, Diane DiPrima, and Kathleen Hanna.

When I graduated from high school at 17, I left the conservative confines of the Midwest for the greener pastures of San Francisco. I didn't know anyone in San Francisco. I was young, broke, and radically determined to live my fantasies out loud and discover who I was sexually — and I had found just the playground to make those discoveries. 

The bold colors of San Francisco's billowing rainbow flags, the assertive wind off the Bay pushing against my body, and the lovers that guided me through my early explorations of kinky queer sex gave me a sense of belonging that I had been yearning for since those first junior high fantasies — but something was still missing.  

When I first met Mr. Mogul, my Daddy, it was love at first rope bite. 

As I grew older, both these parts of myself — my feminist side and my sexually submissive side — became a driving force behind my work as an activist and artist. But more importantly, they also began to occupy and inform a large part of my queer sexual identity and my authentic expression of self (in and out of the bedroom). After all, I don't leave my gold star feminist membership card at the door when I slip out of my cardigan and into my collar. 

When I first met Mr. Mogul, my Daddy, it was love at first rope bite. I was a young performance artist paying outlandish rent on her feminist art gallery while simultaneously chasing after — and documenting — her wild sexual adventures. Art and sex just went together for me. Although my gallery was gaining exposure and my on-camera kinky life was a total fantasy come true, my personal life was lacking the dominant/submissive power dynamics that I found so fulfilling — until I met Mr. Mogul. I was working as a bondage model at the time, and he was one of the first prominent Shibari rope artists and fetish photographers living in Seattle. As a bondage model, I traveled around the world getting tied up by different BDSM porn producers and fetish photographers. But Mr. Mogul was different. 

When his ropes cinch around me, I have a difficult time keeping my composure. I feel so safe and inspired, tangled in his web. And the deeper I push into his ropes, into his heart, the more I discover about myself, my own strength, and my love for Daddy. 

In our journey as dominant and submissive, Daddy fulfills the role of mentor and guide. My Daddy is someone who believes in me, coaches me from the side lines, challenges me physically, mentally, and emotionally, and tucks me into bed —  even when I’m writing about feminism and submission (that totally just happened). My Daddy kisses me hard on the lips and cares for "my boo boos" with the most tender touch. More than once, Daddy has delicately changed my bandages while I close my eyes, and hand my trust over to the man I love. Daddy captured my heart not just with his dominant side, but as a nurturing figure who cares for me with compassion and understanding.

As a feminist and a strong woman, I don't need a dominant, or anyone to kiss my boo boos or tell me everything is going to be OK, for that matter. But in the context of dominance and submission, I allow my vulnerable tender self, the innocent child self, to exist, to release my insecurities, to soar past my fears — with the reassurance and encouragement of my Daddy, my dominant, who is there to hold my hand, or push me higher on the swing, or simply to award me a gold star for excelling in my service as a submissive.  

When Daddy's ropes cinch tightly into my flesh, I lean into them. I'm not afraid of them.  I'm not afraid of sensation or pleasure.  I don't mistrust my body's capability to process the intense sensation of a heavy leather flogger as it comes crashing down on my ass, or my ability to transform the sting of a cane striking against my thighs into bands of warmth and love that encircle my body. I don't doubt my ability, my strength, my capability to communicate my boundariesbecause I'm a feminist.  

As I publicly explored my submission in front of the camera and spoke openly at universities and conferences about my perspectives as a feminist, people often questioned how I reconcile my feminist politics with my submissive desires. I have always found that my feminist politics actually support my submissive desires. When we tear away all of those societal shrouds of shame that veil our sex-negative culture, we realize that there are no rules, simply our authentic desires — and that is a liberating experience. This realization is a feminist act. 

I am a feminist and I am a submissive, two distinct elements of my complex identity. I don't think that sex within the framework of BDSM is inherently any more empowering than any other type of sex, but it has the potential to be — and I would say in my experience that the most empowered, transcendent feminist sexual experiences I’ve had are those within the realm of BDSM. One of the reasons for this might be that BDSM builds into its framework a pre-scene negotiation. That means before energy and power is exchanged in any manner, all parties involved sit down and discuss desires, limits, boundaries, roles, safe words, needs and expectation. As a submissive, my dominant and I enter into a scene as equals, as two empowered individuals that are clearly negotiating space and structure for our desires. And my desire is for submission.

To me, feminism is about choice. And as an empowered feminist, I listen to my body. I don't submit to societal expectations of how someone else thinks I should be having sex or what I should look like when I orgasm or what sounds I should make as I climax. Submission is not passive. It's not accidental. It’s not sleepy morning sex — it's hot, wet, raw, animal-like. It's primal. Submission is also not reliant on an act of dominance. My submissive identity and desire exist whether or not I’m engaging with my dominant in any kind of activity.  My submissive identity, is my own identity, and not dependent on anyone else.

Images: Pat Mazzera; Giphy(3); Madison Young

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