So, picking up where i left off yesterday ~ in his book Warrior Princess Submissive, Michael Makai predicts a fairly dire future for Dominants. He thinks people who are not in the lifestyle will begin to perceive (male) Dominants as abusive and attack them relentlessly. The Dominants will have no good defense for their actions, and Warrior Princess Submissives will need to come out of stealth mode and defend the lifestyle
I don’t think that’s going to happen. First of all, I don’t think a large group of people ~ mainstream vanilla or feminist ~ is going to rise up against us. Here’s why.
Mainstream vanilla people mostly don’t mind when men tell the womenfolk what to do. They may not think it’s ideal or want that themselves, but they’re not likely to interfere. We are not a post-sexism culture; we are still very patriarchal. Large groups of people are fully committed to the “men are the head of the household and women are should submit and obey” way of life. Not in a kinky, fun way. Not in a consensual way, but in a very gender-specific, mandated way.
I could write a blog post about that. I won’t. But consider the Christian Bible ~ the oft quoted Ephesians 5:22-24:
22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.…
Some people who practice Christianity will tell you that is not meant to be taken literally. But others do practice it, to varying degrees. For extreme examples, check out the Quiverful and Patriarchy movements here. Or our own Taken in Hand folks, who combine gender-based submission and (sometimes) some kink ~ or spanking anyhow, kinky or otherwise.
Mainstream vanilla folks, in general, are more interested in controlling women’s sexuality than they are in making sure women experience environments that encourage autonomy. Look at the victim blaming that still happens in the domestic violence arena, the political movement against abortion and even contraceptives, and the efforts to redefine feminism in ways that support belief in innate gender roles.
But what about feminists? Aren’t they more likely to rise up against BDSM and D/s? I don’t think so. Feminists aren’t a monolithic group of people who work well together for or against any one thing. Just like there is no “one twue way” to be a submissive or a Dominant, there is no one true way to be a feminist.
Feminists grapple with what we believe about pornography, about sex workers, and about women wearing burkhas. We disagree about whether trans women should always be embraced or relegated to separate space, whether gender is a binary or on a spectrum, and a million other things. Sometimes, it’s hard to figure out exactly what we do agree on.
i think that each of our viewpoints contains a piece of the truth, and in my best fantasies we agree to recognize that. As bell hooks says in Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope:
“Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.”
There’s power in recognizing that it’s ok for other people to live in ways that i don’t agree with or approve of. But even if we believe that there is only one right feminist way to be, there is not massive agreement on what that way looks like. Some people already think BDSM and D/s are sick and abusive. A few of them might move into attack mode. But i can’t imagine the massive uprising that Michael Makai predicts.
Nonetheless, we can do a couple of things to increase the chances of creating safe space for ourselves and the lifestyle.
First, we can embrace the diversity of relationships and sexuality that already exists. We can set a tone that says it’s not up to someone else to judge the rightness or wrongness of what people do in their own lives.
That’s not to say we can’t have standards. Children, of course, are a clear exception. Adults being sexual with children is taboo, and I think it should be. So how and where do we draw that line?
We can set the standard with consent. Children do not have the knowledge or experience to consent to a sexual relationship, and that’s the dividing line. If there’s no consent, then it’s not ok. And I’m not talking about grudging consent, “she didn’t say no” consent, or “she was too drunk to say anything” consent. I mean enthusiastic consent between adults.
If you and your husband agree that you do all the housework and childcare and work full-time and he cuts the grass, takes out the garbage, and “babysits” once a month so you can go to “girls night out,” that’s fine, as long as you’ve truly consented to that arrangement. In my opinion, it’s a horrible situation, much worse than being tied up and beaten, which i kind of like. But if you consent to it, it is not any of my business.
One of the things I love about BDSM and D/s is the requirement for consent. Not to say we always practice it perfectly ~ who does? But it’s a cornerstone of the lifestyle. And it’s becoming a cornerstone of feminism. How perfect is that?
So consent ~ giving permission for something to happen ~ and diversity ~ accepting that it’s ok for other people to live the way they want to. We can hold those standards all the time without disclosing our own sexual preferences or relationship dynamics.
i have no plans to share my life as “sophia” in my professional life ~ ever. Particularly because i blog about details of my sex life ~ that is the last thing the people i work with need to know about, and in fact, it would be an ethical violation if they did. So that’s not happening.
But embracing diversity and encouraging a standard of enthusiastic consent? i can do that all day every day ~ and pretty much do. If you’re concerned about our future freedom, i invite you to do the same.