There’s a really interesting article on Alternet by a very reflective feminist who is sexually submissive. She emphasises the importance of consent and safe words in the BDSM community, which is a very important but familiar move.
A dom/sub dynamic doesn’t appear to promote equality, but for most serious practitioners, the trust and respect that exist in power exchange actually transcend a mainstream “woman as object” or rape mentality. For BDSM to exist safely, it has to be founded on a constant proclamation of enthusiastic consent, which mainstream sexuality has systematically dismantled.
However, she doesn’t stop there. She moves on to worries about what happens as BDSM imagery becomes more prevalent in mainstream culture, where all the emphasis on consent is absent. And she doesn’t shy away from the strongest form of these worries.
Herein lies the problem — with the advent and proliferation of Internet pornography, the fantasy of rape, torture and bondage becomes an issue of access. No longer reserved for an informed, invested viewer who carefully sought it out after a trip to a fetish bookstore, BDSM is represented in every porn portal on the Internet…the average young, male, heterosexual porn audience member begins to believe that forcing women into sex acts is the norm — the imagery’s constant, instant availability makes rape and sex one and the same for the mainstream viewer.
When the mainstream appropriation of BDSM models is successfully critiqued, dismantled and corrected, a woman can then feel safe to desire to be demeaned, bound, gagged and “forced” into sex by her lover. In turn, feminists would feel safe accepting that desire, because it would be clear consensual submission. Because “she was asking for it” would finally be true.
It’s a very good and complex article, although short. However, I’m not sure it’s wholly coherent. She says that feminist opposition to BDSM must be understood as “kinkophobia”. But she also goes on to admit that in the actual world that we have, with lots of sexual violence, BDSM is genuinely problematic for feminists in certain ways. That seems to me at odds with the insistence that those who raise these worries must be considered “kinkophobes”. Anyway, go have a look!