Monday, August 31, 2009

From The Mailbag

Ever since I read The Story of O, I have been having some interesting thoughts on BDSM and Feminism. None of my friends are practitioners... I have been arguing the point that BDSM is compatible with feminism, as a woman who is in the dominant role would be actively exercising power over another person. The submissive role is also an expression of feminism, as the woman, comes to realize her own agency, and then of her own volition delegates that agency to another party.

My friends however, argue that's its violence against oneself (belief that comes from Sarte) to ever surrender agency, and furthermore, its anti-feminist to ever surrender any agency, as its is the ultimate goal of feminism to empower women to use their own agency, to be equals, not to subjugate themselves.

I have responded to this by mentioning that we all surrender our agency each and everyday when we walk into the work place, as another person delegates what our job should be, and with in what parameters we can operate.

I know that response is not great, but its the best I come up with on such short notice. I have a feeling that you would weigh in on the side of BDSM and Feminism being completely compatible, and I would love to hear what your response would be.

Oh, sweet reader, you are asking me to wade into one of the meanest, nastiest, longest-running debates in feminism. And my response is: I don’t care. I really do not give a damn if other people think my sexuality and feminism are compatible or not.

(I will say it’s slightly odd that your friends are using Sarte to defend their position, given that Mr. Being and Nothingness isn’t generally the darling of the feminist movement. What, no Audre Lorde? But hey, it’s been a long time since I was in a Philosophy class. Maybe perceptions have changed.)

My position is that if you think I’m a feminist, you’re right. And if you think I’m not a feminist, you’re right. What I definitely know that I am as kinky as hell. Don’t like that? Then don’t get in bed with me - in any sense of the word. But I do not define and practice my sexuality by any philosophy but my own.

In closing, The Story of O is not only a work of fiction, it’s a period piece. There’s nothing wrong with that, if you like it. But it is not a good basis for theorizing about women in the BDSM community today, and I would not cite it as a source to skeptical listeners. For more current discussions about BDSM and feminism, go here.

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