“What should I blog about?” I asked Jos earlier. “Give me a challenge.”
“Blog about your feelings about female submission,” he said.
Let me preface it this way. In my ideal world (which may or may not be possible at all), set gender roles would not exist. People would not view women and men differently on the basis of sex. Things like femininity and masculinity would be for play, for hotness, and many people would have no need of them. It would be the same way with power dynamics – nobody would be presumed to be stronger or better than anyone else, and people would only use power dynamics for play, like we do in bdsm. In this fantasy world, I don’t think I’d feel any different about male and female submissives, unless my idiosyncratic sexuality just made one hotter than the other.
But we don’t live in that world, and I do see them differently. And it’s a strange and complicated thing that I have a hard time fully understanding about myself.
I play at a public club, and most of the scenes and relationships I see look fine to me. I read some blogs by submissive women and enjoy them a lot. But pictures of women in submissive poses/equipment – the generic porn kind – can offend my feminist sensibilities even though I have no good argument against them, while pictures of men never do. And I sometimes get worried or squicked about individual submissive women (in public play, or based on a blog post or whatever), while I have never, as far as I can remember, felt that way about a man.
(I should note that I’m basically writing as though lesbian bdsm doesn’t exist. I am well aware that it does. But I can’t figure out whether I do or do not have these anomalous types of responses to women submitting to other women. I don’t think I do, but I’m not sure. So I’m really writing about women submitting to men here.)
When I see women submitting to men, I think my mind has a slight presumption of yucky patriarchy stuff going on. If the women seem to be non-autonomous, intrinsically powerless, confused, or insecure, then that presumption is quickly reinforced.
I once made Joscelin break down sobbing during a scene at the club. If I’d seen that happen to another submissive man, I’d probably have found it touching, even while I watched to see how the dom handled it. (I might have even watched to make sure the dom was safe from the man!) But if I’d seen a man do that to a submissive woman, I’d have felt like he probably suckered her into the whole thing, that she was probably submitting or being beaten or whatever due to some kind of emotional coercion, that he was an asshole. I would realize, of course, that the assumptions were unwarranted. But that’s how I’d feel. It’s how I’ve felt before when I’ve seen situations like that, at least until I learned otherwise.
This relates somehow to my own confused relationship to being submissive. I love to feel submissive in a scene, but any presumption of submissiveness from even a scene partner turns me off. (One guy told me I didn’t seem like a brat. It really rankled me, given that “brat” assumes there is some kind of legitimate power structure that I shouldn’t rebel against.)
But I don’t want to mainly talk about my own submissiveness. Instead, here is what I’m curious about. Did feminism imbue me with some kind of resistance to signs of patriarchy, and that’s what I’m applying (in my limited way) that makes me balk at men dominating women? Or is my prejudice against this actually a sign of disrespect for the autonomy of women – a kind of pre-conscious belief that women can’t decide, aren’t sexual, or are intrinsically shaped and ruled by their male partners?
Under the Boot recently wrote about how his wife cut him with a kitchen knife. I don’t really think that is a good idea. It’s not safe enough for me. But what I thought was something like “that kook” because, you know, they’re grown-ups, they can make their own decisions. But if a woman wrote that her husband did that to her, I’d think he was a total asshole. I’d think she should get away from him because he obviously doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing and could cause her serious injury.
In my mind, it feels like Under the Boot is tough and can take care of himself, but this hypothetical female submissive is probably too submissive and trusting to question what her partner is doing. It’s fine for me (apparently) that someone’s wife freely experiments in something she has no training in, but a male dom doing the same thing…well, that’s just not OK in my book.
What is this? Do I think women are too delicate? Non-sexual? Unassertive? It’s always the man’s job to be smart, aware, and take care of the woman?
Am I a feminist or a misogynist?