Friday, 30 January 2015


"I've called myself a feminist since
childhood, but even as a young girl,
what most turned me on was thinking
about serving somebody else.

In Fifty Shades of Grey , Anastasia Steele is an innocent
virgin who falls for the ultimate dominant billionaire,
Christian Grey, who ushers her into the world of BDSM,
a catchall term which includes bondage/domination,
dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism. In the
book, Christian presents Ana with a lengthy
contract governing her food choices, clothing,
masturbation, birth control, and sexual activity, and
shows her his home dungeon, The Red Room of Pain, full
of kinky accoutrements she's never even imagined

Ana famously becomes so smitten with Christian, she'll
do anything to keep him in her life, including submit to
his dirtiest desires, though it's clear that for the most
part, she doesn't really share them. But the heroine of
the book that catapulted kink into the mainstream isn't
representative of what actual women grapple with when
it comes to owning their desire to serve, obey, be
whipped, spanked, and bound, and other manifestations
of kink, a word commonly used interchangeably with
BDSM. Some may be into the power dynamic, while
others crave erotic pain; some relationships, such as
Christian and Ana's, involve both. In real life, submissive
women are far more complex, their relationships not
easily summarized in a contract. In many cases,
submissives are proud feminists — like Maya (not her
real name), 41, a college professor two years into a
Dominant/submissive (known as D/s) relationship

"My mom was a member of consciousness-raising
groups before I was born. When I was little, she rode
me around in a baby bike seat with an ERA YES
bumper sticker on it, so I always say I was a feminist-
diaper baby. She was a member of the League of
Women Voters, a Ms. subscriber who raised me to
think about the career I would have, to be opinionated
and confident, to see myself as having an identity
independent of any partner I might choose. She taught
me to believe fiercely in women's rights and have no
shame around my body or my sexuality.
I've called myself a feminist since childhood, but even
as a young girl, what most turned me on was thinking
about serving somebody else. I Dream of Jeannie was
erotic to me; there was this bubbly, pretty girl who was
joyfully in service to this man.
Two years ago I reconnected with a former lover. We'd
had a wonderful sex life, which included rough sex,
but had never called it D/s (Dominant/submissive). We
were living a few states away from each other and e-
mailing, and his dirty talk took on a dominant tone. He
said, "I want you to come into the room and stand over
here and do what I tell you." It was like a light bulb
going off for me. My jaw dropped. I couldn't speak for
several hours afterward. I thought: That's exactly what
I want.

However, we didn't think of what we were doing as D/
s, because our ideas about it were stereotypical. Fifty
Shades portrays the dominant as a damaged but
powerful man who uses BDSM as an outlet for his rage,
and the submissive as a naive pushover swept away by
the dominant's money and status. But in our
relationship, we are equal partners in all things except
our erotic life. I'm an opinionated, successful woman
who juggles a lot of responsibilities and relishes the
relief of being obedient and cared for by my Dom. And
he's a guy who, while also successful, feels shy in the
world, and wishes he felt more confident in the rest of
his life; his role with me is a place where he feels that.
Our D/s relationship is a chance to switch up our
regular personalities, not manifest them.

Soon after that, he said, "Maybe you could call me
Daddy as a term of endearment." I wasn't sure about
it, but decided to try it and instantly [it clicked]. He
started calling me "babygirl." I didn't think it was D/s
because there's a lot of tenderness and coddling and
mutual spoiling.
We have rules we've made by agreement. I shave every
other day. I put breakfast out for him every morning.
My mouth has to touch his penis every morning before
we leave bed; it doesn't have to be extended, but there
has to be contact. I have to figure out how I'm doing
my hair and makeup. That rule is for me, not for him.
I feel better if I take the time to put a little effort in.
He opens all doors and carries all heavy things. If
we're in an airport and he goes to get my luggage while
I just stand there, inside my mind, I'm thinking, We are
doing something so kinky in public right now.

I'm a really ambitious woman with a busy life and a
job; if he wanted somebody who was going to stay
home and not have a career, it wouldn't work for us.
D/s requires us to talk about all the areas of our life all
the time; I value that level of communication. The idea
that if you're a sub you give over total control to
somebody you don't know at all and they have no idea
about what you want? That's not good BDSM. That's
being a doormat. You have to come to submission from
a place of strength. If you've got nothing to offer, that's
not submission; that's a codependent bullshit

My parents had high expectations of me and were
pretty critical; they weren't warm and fuzzy. I've
always been strong and independent, but I've craved
coddling—not all the time, but in moments. It's an
enormous relief to get that in my relationship. For
example, I get stressed out about packing for work
trips. He'll have me try on different outfits and write
them all down and tell me which ones look good and
get the suitcase from the attic. That calms me down
and makes me feel like somebody else is in control.
Maybe that sounds non-erotic, but it's very erotic for
me to feel vulnerable and open to letting somebody else
do things for me.
In my regular life, I have a ton of responsibility; I make
decisions all the time. My submission means I'm
choosing to release control for a limited amount of
time, and that feels like a burden being lifted. It's made
me less anxious, happier, and more fulfilled.
As a feminist, I value the chance to say exactly what I
want and get it. My submission is a way of doing that;
it's a performance of my sexual and gender identity. I
think of myself as femme because this is my choice to
enact my femininity.
You don't want the dominant who's like Richard Gere
in Pretty Woman , all "I'm gonna dress you up and you
do your hair like this and then you're perfect for
me." You want the dominant who, whatever you're
doing, says, "You're perfect for me; I love being with


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