BDSM Isn’t Anti-Feminist

Given my ardent feminism and my love for BDSM, it surprises me to see other feminists saying that you can’t be into BDSM and be a “true” feminist.

Firstly, being a feminist means fighting for a woman’s right to make her own damn decisions. That means we don’t judge women who are conservative or religious, who rely on men for support, who are stay at home moms who like to cook, or women who like being sexually dominated by a man (or any other kind of kinky fun). Every woman (or female presenting person) is different, and trying to fit us all into the same box is exactly what feminism is supposed to be against. Humans are sexual creatures with a wide range of interests and turn-on’s, and we should not judge them for consensual, safe activities that are done with other full informed, consenting adults. Who I have fun with and how is no one else’s business but my own.

Secondly, BDSM is not abuse. Consent is the core of BDSM; without fully informed and continual consent, it’s abuse. If a women doesn’t feel she can say no, it’s not real BDSM. Every participant has the right to say no at any time, for any reason, and they don’t have to do anything that they don’t want to do. This is the opposite of how domestic violence works. Abuse doesn’t ask permission, it doesn’t establish or respect safety or personal boundaries; the abuser just takes what they want. BDSM is about the voluntary exchange of power and control, which is actually very empowering when done correctly. Calling BDSM abuse or anti-feminist shows a lack of understanding of what BDSM is all about, and it demeans the wonderful people who have found acceptance and freedom here.

Now, there are some predators and awful people within BDSM. Predators like to take advantage of people who may be vulnerable and unaware that what they’re experiencing is abuse. It reminds me a lot of church, actually. Just like some pastors or non-religious youth workers target people (especially young people) for manipulation and assault, some people within the BDSM spectrum take advantage for their own nefarious purposes. But this is not a BDSM-specific problem, it’s found in many groups, especially conservative religious groups. It doesn’t mean that type of group is inherently bad or unsafe, but it does mean that the group needs to make a conscious effort to educate their members so they are not vulnerable to these predators. In the kink groups I’m involved in, consent and education is a major focus. When I joined the community in my area, the first thing experienced players asked me was if I understood consent and safety. I’ve actually felt much safer in my local BDSM community than I ever felt when I was using regular online dating, and though I haven’t hooked up with people from bars I can’t imagine feeling anywhere near as safe in that kind of situation.

I’ve been in a bad BDSM situation where the rules of consent and safety were not followed. I know how scary it is to have my right to say no taken away. It’s horrible. But that’s not what real BDSM is about. Since then I’ve educated myself on proper BDSM methods and I know to watch for predators, and while I’m still learning I’m being well taken care of within the safety of the community.

So for feminists who would like to demonize BDSM as anti-feminist and anti-woman, let’s focus on ending actual abuse, where the right to say no doesn’t exist and manipulation abounds. That’s what dehumanizes and oppresses women, not fully consensual kink play.

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