[Content Notice for Consent Violation, BDSM, kink. Some links and discussion NSFW. If you don’t understand a term, click the links or access the whole glossary.]
BDSM and kink do not exist in a bubble isolated from the influences of a sex-hating, sexist society. As such, there often is replication of extant societal norms within alt-sex contexts — the disproportionately-high number of BDSM households where one man has many female partners who are supposed to be faithful to him, for example. When said replication occurs with the enthusiastic consent of all involved, non-participant personal discomfort with it, even discomfort stemming from a legitimate place, isn’t necessarily a legitimate reason to criticize it. At the same time, marginalized people’s discomfort with their oppression being replicated by kinksters is not something to be dismissed out of hand.
Acts and relationships that go against dominant power structures seem safe from such replication. When it comes to activity that seems to, at least on the surface, subvert rather than reinforce extant power dynamics in society, what could possibly be the problem? Specifically, what could be sexist or otherwise problematic about women in charge, matriarchy instead of patriarchy, femdom-style stuff? Isn’t that sort of thing basically the opposite of sexism? Maybe even inherently feminist?
Surprise, surprise — not really. It comes down, as it often does, to consent and objectification. Being a male submissive with a desire for a female dominant hardly renders a man a feminist automatically.
Bottoms and submissives take front-and-center in the discussion of consent within BDSM, and rightly so. Because they are in the vulnerable position of having surrendered at least some level of control to another party, they are generally in more danger of exploitation and abuse. Nonetheless, being a dominant or a top is not blanket consent to any and all activity with any and all submissives or bottoms. That this is true seems obvious — except to male submissives in search of female dominants.
True consent is an enthusiastic “yes” communicated clearly by all involved parties prior to engaging in any activity. Despite negative perceptions of the “yes means yes” paradigm, this doesn’t have to be a legalistic or dry process by any means. Enthusiastic consent is fun when you’ve stopped assuming that silence is the only way to have fun in a sexual context.
If a particular woman has never interacted with a particular man before, then all he has is her silence. For him to assume that she, a stranger, would be amenable to engaging in elaborate sexual roleplay with him would be absurd. Yet almost every day, I receive a message at my inbox on a certain kink-oriented site from some new man who insists on calling me “mistress” and describes his fantasies in great detail to me with the assumption that I would be interested in catering to them. About twice a month, someone with a giantess fetish comes at me anonymously and expects me to cater to his fetishes, which I repeatedly have informed him that I do not share.
These men think that because they are “submitting” to me, they are doing me some kind of favor, so how could I possibly refuse their “service”? In reality, I am not in control of anything in the proposed situations. What they are asking is for me to cater to their whims and enable them to live out to their femdom fantasies, which many of them have plotted out down to the tiniest of tiny details. Not only does my lack of consent to roleplay not matter to them, they are essentially proposing a situation not where I would truly dominate or top then. Instead, I’d put on the outfit they prefer, say the words that they want to hear, and do exactly the things they desire in order for them to get off.
In kinky circles, there is widespread mockery of and disdain for dominants who assume that all submissives will serve them personally. Would that it were also extended towards male “submissives” who want to be personally catered to rather than to serve in any way — or, at the very least, to engage in mutually-agreed-upon and mutually pleasurable activities.
Beyond kink circles and their consent-disregarding men, female domination and feminism have become oddly synonymous. More times than I can remember, when I’ve brought up feminism, some would-be feminist man has gushed at me about how much he loves “femme fatales” or “strong women” — as if his perceptions of a woman’s sexual desirability are what render her socially acceptable. Sexist men think that feminist women find the domestic abuse of men by women even more gosh-darn hilarious than they do. Awkward femdom accounts on sites that aren’t sex- or kink-oriented cement the association.
Women shouldn’t have to be sexualized ass-kickers in order to gain the respect that ought to be accorded to all human beings. Identifying as a top or a dom shouldn’t lead to consent violations for which the violated is expected to be grateful. And feminism doesn’t exist for sexual gratification of anyone — male, female, both, other, or neither.