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I write about sex a lot. Probably because I think about sex a lot. It's a privilege afforded to my generation in this part of the world. As North American women, we have gained more rights to our bodies than ever before. Hell, there is more mainstream advertising now telling us to take care of our cunt's health than I believe has ever existed publicly (I saw a bus ad recently reminding me it's time to get a PAP smear). Several women in my family hit sexual maturity in the 1970s at the height of the sexual revolution before the terror of AIDS and at the inception of widely available birth control. I grew up hearing stories of what it could mean to be sexually free.
During the 1980s and 1990s, the world of feminism was embroiled in the "sex wars" and it wasn't as sexy as it sounds. In fact, it got pretty ugly at times. On one side, radical feminists were arguing that all penetrative sex should be viewed as rape and that heterosexual sex was a form of patriarchal control. On the other side, sex positive feminists were arguing that sexual freedom for women was an integral part of true freedom and as women have suffered centuries of sexual repression, being sexually free to do whatever the fuck (or whoever the fuck) you wanted was part of breaking free of the old, sexually-repressed patriarchal control of female bodies. Of course, there were others arguing different variations of different middle grounds on the subject but those two poles were very prominent.
Coming out of the second wave of feminism, radical feminism rejected a lot of forms of sexuality as abusive, patriarchal, or woman-hating. During the sex wars, there was not a lot of acceptance for different forms of sexuality or genders, such as transgendered bodies or alternative sexualities like kink. Now we get to the type of sex I really want to talk about, kink. Long rejected by not only mainstream moralist culture who saw it as taboo, disgusting, and perverted (which by the way is what makes it fun) but also by the alternative movements like radical feminism that saw it as recreating patriarchal control in the bedroom and unequal power dynamics in sex.
I, personally, think the radical feminists got that one wrong.
I'm gonna tell you a little story. When I was 19, I was in a open-relationship with a thirty-two-year-old man who was gleefully opening my eyes to all the sexual possibilities in the world like it was his full-time job. I had grown up in a very small town with very few sexual options (most of the guys I knew I had gone to school with since kindergarten so sleeping with them was just too weird and my bisexuality was still locked in the closet with the broom and dustpan). Although I had a grasp on the fact that I was a very sexual person and had spent plenty of time reading sex manuals and sex advice columns, watching sex education TV, listening to late night sex talk shows, reading erotica, looking at porn, fantasizing, etc., I had very little real world practice at that point. This lovely man brought me into the world of sexuality (I think we tried every position possible, my nineteen-year-old body was more flexible back then), open relationships, and my personal favorite kink. He also gave me my first orgasm... .... *sigh* .... wait... what was I talking about?
Not only did he bring kink (also known as S&M or BDSM [which is a catch-all term for bondage, domination, submission, sadism, masochism, etc.]) into the private world of the bedroom, but he introduced me to the lifestyle of kink in dark clubs, sexy dance floors, underground spaces and private parties. I fell in love at first sight with that sexy, latex-coated, corseted, shiny black, leather pants, nipple pierced, hand-cuffed, tied up, gagged world of notoriously taboo sex. The moment I stepped into that world, I came to the shocking realization that this, THIS, is what my life had been missing. It donned on me that my earliest sexual fantasies had involved domination, submission, bondage and pain. At the ripe age of eight, I had fallen madly in love with Zorro on TV because he was dashing and more importantly wore black leather, a mask and carried a big whip. My knock-off Barbie dolls (we were poor) spent most of their time naked, tied up and in peril. I walked into my first kink club at the tender age of 19 and I knew right then and there that I was home.
I also found feminism and political action that very same summer when I took my first women's studies' course at university. Again, I found something that I had been missing and felt like I had come home. At that point, the sex wars had been fought and women's studies was opening itself up to alternative sexualities. Over the course of my undergraduate career Critical Studies in Sexuality, sociology courses focusing on gender, sex and queerness, and queer studies became part of my educational curriculum. I wrote papers on BDSM for different classes that were openly accepted. I created a lecture about the history of corseting and presented it wearing a tight-laced corset in thigh high boots. I was even asked to teach a safe-sex BDSM workshop for the campus women's student organization. The feminism I became a part of was a sexual feminism. We were working toward openness in sex and the breaking down of barriers to alternative forms of sex. I may have been a feminist but I was a feminist in a black vinyl tight-laced corset, six inch stilettos, fishnet stockings, and carrying a bullwhip.
I was a femme-domme bitch and I apologized to no one. As a matter of fact, I am still a femme-domme bitch and I still apologize to no one. Sex can be more than shame and repression. I mean, there is always complication involved in sex, especially kinky sex and we are always trans-versing the lines of "Is this playing into patriarchal notions", "Am I reinforcing patriarchal control" but sex can also just be fun. Maybe if we lived in a world without all the bullshit of unequal power relations and sexual violence, people could look at BDSM and realize it's just people having safe, sane consensual kinky fun times (at least that's the way it's supposed to be). Sex is always gonna be messy and complicated but does that mean I should give up on my desires and what I feel I truly want? As long as I am actively always analyzing and thinking about the complexities of the world, always engaging in expressed consent, and keeping communication open and honest with my partners I feel perfectly comfortable tying someone up, smacking their ass until it's glowing red and still calling myself a feminist.