It never occurred to me that being labeled an anti-feminist was an issue that many people in the BDSM community dealt with. And yet it makes so much sense as an afterthought.
Women are typically seen as the “fairer” sex, the weaker, and docile of the species. In BDSM, there are typically two roles in a power dynamic that the mainstream knows of: dominant and submissive. Usually, it is expected that women in the scene are submissive and men in the scene are dominant. Women who fall into these roles are criticized by some as perpetuating gender stereotypes–they are doing nothing for the plight of woman.
A woman I interviewed voiced these exact thoughts when I asked her about some misconceptions from mainstream society that added to the stigma that caused people in the scene to remain in the closet.
“I’ve had friendships end because people think that I’m some kind of self-hating person or that you can’t be a feminist and be kinky and all men who have rough sex hate women,” she said. “I have a huge problem with that because every responsible dom that I know has a tremendous amount of respect for consent.
“Communication and consent is such a huge thing. People have a hard time wrapping their minds around it because in their head you don’t hit the people you love, you don’t cut the people you love. With stuff like “50 Shades of Grey”, people just see stalker man controls woman, woman for some reason likes it because she is a doormat. That’s occasionally a problem in the scene, but it’s not indicative of us as a community.”
I interviewed a psychologist who is in the scene and has a lot of clientele from the community. I’ve never read or or seen, nor have I planned or ever intended to, “50 Shades of Grey.” I know about the hype and I know what it is in a nutshell. I know people hated it because it was badly written and because it was a poor representation of the BDSM community, but I didn’t know how damaging and hated it was by the community.
She explained to me a few problems with the depiction of members of this community (which I will neatly lay out in bullet points):
- Grey is kinky and dominating and overbearing because he was abused. Now, according the psych, some people do use BDSM as a means to work through trauma, the bad thing about this depiction is that, his actions were at times not consensual nor negotiated. Furthermore, his aggressiveness was seen as almost villainous.
- Vanilla girl saved him. According to the psych, who said she read the entire series out of pure obligation, Grey’s salvation is him becoming more vanilla and less kinky as the stories progress.
I’m sure there are more, but those are the two that stood out to me (that I remembered).
A kinky feminist. I like the sound of that.