A fast-write to help me with my paper, and to entertain you all, of course.
How is it empowering to be a female submissive in a heterosexual relationship? That’s the question, really, and sometimes I’m not sure how to answer it. Although I feel empowered within my relationship, in many ways, it’s also a question of power and choice. If I was ordered about and such in a relationship where I had no choice, no power, and was still ordered and bossed around it would be far from empowering. Or, in a relationship where I was spanked, slapped, and had my hair pulled on a regular basis and I didn’t enjoy it or didn’t want it or didn’t request it, I would be far from empowered.
I’ve heard the argument said that since patriarchy imposes these ideas of submission onto us, as female subs we are essentially just buying into that patriarchy, into that system which subordinates us, into that perpetuation of gender stereotypes and roles.
Now, I’m not one who believes in gender supremacy. I don’t think that just because my Master is male he therefore has some right to be dominant or some right to be above me. That’s just not true. It’s due to my desire to serve and his desire to be served that we come to these roles, and not anything else. Now, speaking as a feminist as well, I can see the previous argument. I can see it as a valid argument, I just damn well don’t agree with it. I believe in individuality, which could also be said to be a product of the culture we live in. However, I extend individuality to much more than male/female roles.
I use the terms M/f and F/m and so on because there are these ideas such as gender supremacy and patriarchal brainwashing which often accompany bdsm (and wrongly so in most cases). I think there are some trends that many M/f couples follow and many F/m couples follow, and there are differences, but those are largely regarding individual differences and choices. While there may be similarities, I don’t think that those are wholly based on gender. However, I do think the terms M/f and F/m and M/m and F/f are all useful, just as I think labels in general are useful. That is: as long as we don’t stick to rigidly to them. I use these terms because of the patriarchal and social connections to them, but not meaning to generalize to those groups.
That said, I don’t really identify as a femsub. I identify as cuntpet and submissive, but female isn’t really something I cling to, though femme is, but I still don’t identify as femsub, mostly for the reason I’ve already mentioned. The majority of the time, there is some sort of lumping or categorization of all fem subs as this and all male subs as that, and etc. And I just don’t buy it.
Now, back to the original point: empowerment. How is BDSM empowering? How can I say that through giving up power to another person I am empowered? Well, BDSM is all about power, it’s all about playing with power and what it means to have power. Through playing with power we are able to recognize that there is no innate or natural power which one person has. All power is constructed, all power is socially given, and none of it is inherent to the person.
Now, through play with power and the recognition of this I am able to realize that, also, there is great power in the giving up of power. Even though vulnerability is so devalued in this society, that does not mean that there is not power in it. I also get to practice passive aims, which I do not see as a bad thing. Passive aims can be described as “being active through being passive,” and can be considered manipulative, though I don’t believe that they always are. Through giving over power I am putting myself into the passive role, into the subordinate role, but in doing that I am achieving my aim, my desire, and getting just what I want out of it. If I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it, I wouldn’t be doing it.
That brings me to another point. All power play, even that which is commonly referred to as Master/slave, where, basically, the slave has no power, no rights, and has little ways to get out of the situation short of leaving it all together, there is still the ability to leave. Even in Venus in Furs we are able to see that Severin is able to leave, and he does so when it goes too far, though he realizes that he is a man of his word. Granted, there is a lot of psychological turmoil which may occur due to leaving a situation which you have agreed upon and pledged your life to, but there is always the choice, even if we can’t make it.
Because the sub always has the choice of leaving, or safewording, or calling limits, the question comes to: who really runs the show? Is it the Dom/me, even though the sub has continuous veto power? Is that like saying that the President has no hand in passing bills, even though s/he has the power to veto them? I don’t think anyone would make that claim. It’s the same here. However, that’s not to say that the sub has all the power, but it is a power exchange, not just power giving and taking. There is power given up on both sides, otherwise the Dominants of today would look much more like the sadists of DeSade.
Which brings me to my next point: masochism and sadism ala Deleuze. While I agree with Deleuze’s points, that sadism and masochism as literary forms, taken right from the works of Sade and Masoch, are not complementary. Sade’s sadists Sade-ists, if you will, are remarkably different from the contemporary use of the term sadist. Sade-ists do not desire consent, and, even, desire no consent. Their play is completely one-sided. Contemporary sadists, however, are generally part of this greater term BDSM, and submit to either RACK (Risk Aware Consensual Kink) or SSC (Safe, Sane, and Consensual), and are not rapists or mutilators, but partners. Sade-ists as depicted are rapists and mutilators and humiliators, and ones which are not desiring of consent.
This brings me to yet another point: consent. BDSM is not BDSM without consent. Not in my view at least. Consent is key, as can be evidenced by two general theories of bdsm play previously mentioned: RACK and SSC, both of which center around consent. If there is not consent, it is abuse. I believe that in order to get consent, there must be trust on both sides. Master and I have had a lot of trouble with our relationship specifically because of lack of trust, either in each other or in ourselves. We both have struggled with trusting ourselves in these roles. I have struggled in trusting that he will not see me any differently if I submit to him (logically I know it’s true, but I still have struggled with it). And so many other little things which have hindered our process.
Without trust, consent is impossible. Without consent, BDSM and RACK or SSC are not possible. However, when you have both of these, the feeling is amazing.