One of the most frustratingly ignorant arguments for why BDSM is a Bad Thing comes from self-proclaimed feminists who view women who enjoy a submissive sexuality as traitors. My understanding is that such feminists believe that an imbalance of sexual power, most of which they see as being in the hands of men (while annoyingly refusing to describe which men), is the root of all activity that oppresses women. Their solution, then, seems to be to disentangle power from sex, making expressions of sexuality socially acceptable only when their physical manifestations are wholly egalitarian.

Unfortunately, although this sounds good to many people, by focusing on the physical acts of sex, what these people are actually advocating is discrimination based on one’s choice of sexual activities. That doesn’t strike me as a very noble goal at all. A great example is the endless blowjob debate: Is the act of orally pleasuring a partner inherently submissive?

If you answered yes, can you please explain to me why women are being submissive when they give a man a blowjob but not necessarily being submissive when they give him a kiss? Both activities are manifestations of potentially (but not necessarily) sexual desire that use a woman’s mouth and lips. I recall reading a study (and now fail to locate the source; damnit; can anyone with Google-fu out there find this?) showing that 30% of a typical person’s ability to sense arousing sexual stimuli is clustered around their mouth and lips. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, would you agree that kissing can be physically stimulating for the person actively doing the kissing? If so, why would this not be true for fellatio? Do you really think kissing the skin of a person’s penis makes that much of a neurochemical difference than kissing the skin of their lips? It’s no wonder so many people enjoy making out and giving their lovers head.

Everyone—including feminists—who incorrectly couples physical activity with emotional intent like this is doing exceptional amounts of damage to the realization of sexual equality. They are forgetting a fundamental truth of Ethics: equality is not interchangeable with sameness. If you treat two different people in an identical fashion, without regard to the context each individual is in and without consideration of their personal motivations, are you really treating them fairly?

Riddle me this, anti-BDSM feminists: Is your goal to establish an allowable set of sexual activity or is it to empower everyone to choose what activities—not necessarily sexually motivated activities, mind you—they would like to partake in, free of social, political, gendered, racial, and other barriers to the pursuit of their own happiness?

Now, while you’re chewing on that, despite the fact that I think feminists, if not feminism, who are rife with extreme opposition to consensual power exchange and BDSM activities is unfortunate, I’m actually pretty empathetic to them. Sadly, such fierce opposition to What It Is That We (in the BDSM communities) Do is not hard to understand if you’ve seen even one glimpse of the sexist assholery I’ve witnessed coming from significant segments of the BDSM community.

Oh yes, don’t you fret, radical feminists, I agree that sexism is alive and well in many people’s understanding of BDSM, if not also their practice of it. ::shudder:: That said, I don’t think inheriting indefensible ideals of sexism by lazily flipping the genders around is anything other than bad logic.

Without a doubt, the most blatant recent example of what I see as indefensible sexist beliefs coming from someone involved in the BDSM community was expressed by a man named Rob, who co-hosts a podcast called The Oh Team (…ew…really? Reminds me of that guy in Office Space making his “oh face”), when he appeared as a guest on episode 2 of the This Week in Kink podcast. I raised a stink about it over on MaleSubmissionArt.com, which I’ll quote:

Our species is fantastically diverse, so collectively we embody myriad dichotomies: tall and short, women and men, dark-skinned and light-skinned, hairless and hairy, and dominant and submissive, are just a few. Human diversity is so vast, in fact, that it’s impossible to infer any given person’s makeup in one sphere (say, D/s) from their makeup in another (say, gender) with 100% accuracy.

Nevertheless, many people often attempt to do just that and end up acting in extremely discriminatory ways, such as the example of Rob in Episode 2 of the This Week In Kink podcast (produced by, surprisingly, the same people who run FetLife.com), with this astonishingly sexist remark:

“I firmly and strongly believe that it is a woman’s role to be submissive to a man. I believe that submission in men is taught at conception because as soon as women realize that they’re pregnant, they start planning that child’s fucking future and quite often that the mother is definitely the beginning of the emasculation. That said, I think that women in the past couple of hundred years have gotten entirely too high on their own power and eventually need to be slapped in the fucking head and put in their place.”

(Skip to 34 minutes and 32 seconds for the quote.)

This is the kind of thing many dominant men say that makes me want to puke and—I might add—to which I would quite reasonably respond with an anti-BDSM mindset if I were not a submissive man myself. Since I am, the idea that “women in the past couple of hundred years have gotten entirely too high on their own power” seems ridiculous to me, because I’m constantly facing a world in which I get handed the bill in restaurants if I’m eating out with a woman, in which I’m unfairly expected to be the pursuing partner in a flirtatious conversation, in which I’m rarely encouraged to feel beautiful, in which I’m granted unbelievable privilege in my professional work. (I’m a male programmer. Here’s what I don’t have to deal with.) Beyond that, the fact that I’m submissive and a man seems to signal implicit permission for others to ridicule or sissify me, and ignore my desires.

What reality do some dominant men inhabit that they think women-at-large “need to be…put in their place”? Sounds to me like they are pretty well entrenched where these men want them to be already. What ruffles my feathers, however, is this: by pigeonholing women into submissive positions (in any sphere, not just sexual ones), these men not only obstruct the equal opportunity that should be afforded to women, but they also obstruct the very same right to equal opportunity for other men.

In other words, there will never be the opportunity for anyone, regardless of D/s inclination, to freely choose how they would like to experience consensual power exchange without gender equality. Many people in both the feminist and the BDSM communities consistently fail to correctly recognize the interactions that power has with sex. In the case of the former, specific activities are assumed to relate to a power exchange, perhaps thanks to cultural scripts that are played ad-nauseum such as those in mainstream pornography. In the case of the latter, gender insensitivity contributes to a belief system that actualizes sexist behavior without regard for personal choice (and that’s why outspoken women like Bitchy Jones are so spot-on so often).

In one of the followup posts over Rob‘s sexist remarks, Delilah expressed my sentiments very well, if strongly worded:

I’m disgusted by the tendency in a certain type of male dom to believe that they are simply bringing back the good old days by making women subservient the way God intended. Aren’t we supposed to be progressive? Isn’t the point of alternative sexuality to explore, well, alternatives??

And get a load of the comments over there. Don’t get me started on the whole “I have a right to my opinion and you have the right to yours” crap. Free speech is free speech, and this fuckwad has the right to say whatever he likes, just as I do. But to hide behind free speech, to say that you will “fight to the death” next to me to defend my right to have an opinion, too, when in the same breath you’re saying that I’m a second-class human being, is completely disingenuous. It wasn’t so long ago that women didn’t have the right to an opinion—whether in matters of state or in the home. You can’t have it both ways, asshole.

[…]

Much more of this, and I’ll be as bitter and angry as people seem to think darling Maymay is. Nice job, kink community.

What’s worse, such ignorance is not restricted to anti-BDSM radical feminists and parts of the BDSM community. Professionals like lawyers and politicians come to similarly ignorant conclusions, I think, because they haven’t the necessary understanding either of gender or consensual power exchange.

Well, fuck! Wouldn’t you say coming to ill-conceived conclusions about things like how our bodies work, how our legal system should work, and how our governments should be structured, not to mention how technical societal infrastructure should be built, is a problem for our society? I think that’s worth fixing.

I have a great deal of respect for John and Tonja, the hosts of This Week in Kink. Nevertheless, I’m saddened by the ignorance about how issues of power intersect with issues of sexuality some of their asshat mandom guests have displayed. I also feel that anyone with an audience of several hundred thousand, such as that of the FetLife.com membership, has a social obligation to accurately portray the distinctions and details of What It Is That We Do and to combat misconceptions about it, such as deeply-engrained sexist ideals, whenever they arise with at least equal vigor as the misconception was presented with.

Which is what I told them when, to John and Tonja’s immense credit, they actually invited me to come onto the show for episode 8. Since the This Week In Kink show page has since disappeared from the Internet, here is an archived MP3 recording of the show. Skip to 6 minutes and 10 seconds in for that part, although I’d love your feedback about the entire conversation. Also, as an aside, I’m looking forward to This Week In Kink getting more submissive men on the show (and maybe even some gay, lesbian, and transgendered people as well, which TTBOMK, are also missing), as are some others, it seems. Once again I find myself alone, for the time being.

Naturally, John and Tonja have a right not to do what I’d like them to. And, of course, how easy for me to tell them what to do. That’s why, because I don’t like it when people just talk and don’t do, and since I’ve been intending to do this for ages anyway, I (re)started my own podcast, one that specifically addresses these issues and ties them into my agenda to make the intersection of power and sex and the way it impacts everyone, not just “kinky people,” more apparent to the world at large. It’s called Kink On Tap.

Kink On Tap 1 through 7 were made way back in 2007—a lot can happen in two years. Also, I’ve never produced a podcast before so I’m excited to be learning about the craft and eager to hear feedback. What do you think?

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