When it comes to female sexual submissiveness, one assumption is that women who seek lovers to ‘safely’ demean, bound, gag or ‘force’ them into sexual liaisons must be doing so for a variety of less than congenial reasons: a history abuse, low self-esteem, or lack of self-worth for example. Certainly, no self-respecting feminist would submit to humiliating, kinky sex for the sake of pleasure on purpose – or would she?
Time and again, that question has become compulsory in order for me to deepen my understanding of feminism and erotica and the pleasures of restraints. That the mainstream appropriation of bondage, tops and bottoms is a poor facsimile of that world, I’ve now come to accept, based on what can still only amount to a meager level of education. Much of my learning has come from reviewing erotica, a literary form that doesn’t claim to teach, but nonetheless, stirs the imagination.
Still it’s one thing to want to read about it – and if that is your current inclination, I recommend Best of Bondage Erotica 2011 by Rachel Kramer Bussel – and another to enter that world full throttle. Sexualized literature is a bridge between the world of doing and the world of fantasy. There’s shelter between the pages of a book where your mind’s eye is allowed to roam unfettered by social constraints, reading about delicious pain and wantonness, especially in the heady doses of Bussel’s latest anthology. Notable tales in this collection of twenty expertly written stories include The Ingenue by Janine Ashless, Relative Anonymity by Emerald, and The Apiary by Megan Butcher.
In distinct ways, they proffer a slice of what it’s like to love behind the restraints, but stories of submission and domination only go so far to strip society of the veil of embarrassment with regards to our secret sensual selves. If we espouse towards sexual equality, fear has to go. Regardless of our preferences between the sheets, and nowadays that can take on so many nuanced labels from vanilla to fudge, flexible to frisky (let your imaginations wander) the feminist movement’s work won’t be completed until we free ourselves from sexual shame, including language that limits our ability to be honest, compassionate and authentic. Even if that means we want to be bound up, gagged, asking for it if you will, which is politically and socially unacceptable to some factions in our milieu, as do the submissives in Bussel’s Best of Bondage collection.
That BDSM has become a hot topic is evidenced all around us, in magazine ads, the creation of erotic art, and the proliferation of adult novelty items sold in high-end lingerie stores such a Coco De Mere. But whether we will find ourselves collectively chatting about the latest gadgets to tie, bind and pleasure us (hmm, we have a new feather tipped flogger, and is it ever exquisite!) in the process as casually as we discuss, say, the best coffee makers or summer camps for the kids is another thing altogether. For most of us, and by that I mean those who call themselves feminists and those who aren’t sure if the shoe fits, sexual liberation hasn’t yet matriculated to that level of openness, never mind the political climate that wants to put discussions about ordinary sex back in the closet.
Not that I think that’s a problem seeking a solution; being pleasure bound may intuitively and correctly lead us towards a safer society, sexually speaking, but that doesn’t mean diarrhea of the mouth should supersede couth with regards to our private play. Language that is raunchy for the sake of gratuitousness will only serve to alienate those who come to this table timidly to begin with. Let’s not get bound up by an inability to share our views on eroticsm, and thereby miss all the fun of blindfolds.
Now it’s your turn to share your provocations on the juxtaposition of feminism and sexual submission. Is this much Taboo about nothing? And can a society that elevates consensual and safe pleasure for all deliver us from sin and shame?
:: W Magzine, July 2009
Tinamarie is a writer for several acclaimed websites. You can find her at twitter and Facebook, or send her a private message at modernlovemuse @ yahoo dot com. ©2010-2011 Tinamarie Bernard; PARTIAL reposts only permitted with link back to original article.