“I’m a feminist who enjoys being dominated during sex. Help!” – My response

Continuing the theme of me responding to recent Globe & Mail sex questions, I’ve foolishly decided to tackle one about feminism and BDSM. While I consider myself both a feminist and a submissive woman, there are so many angles to consider when writing a kink related piece that I’m not certain I’ll be able to capture in one piece. But when the Globe’s response includes a line that says “Still, I get a little sweaty advising you that physical abuse is cool.” I know that I have to say SOMEthing about it.

Reading the comments on the G&M piece also made me think. It felt like 98% of them thought that this woman needed mental help or that she couldn’t possibly still be a feminist while enjoying this. Others suggested that the G&M is only publishing stories like this to bring new readers to their site (as if working something that catches people’s attention and causes them to stop and look at your product is a bad model for business). I wouldn’t be surprised if a ton of my Twitter followers or Facebook “friends” felt the same way as a lot of these commenters, but, I’m going to write this response anyway because it’s a fun challenge for me to see if I can write things that could be palatable to a more general, conservative-ish audience. Enjoy!

The question: I consider myself quite the feminist – I really think gender equality is very important, but sex with my new boyfriend has me questioning my feminist ways. We have been having sex for three weeks now and it gets physical. To my surprise, I have found I like to be dominated. He hits me during sex and chokes me, and I actually like it. I find myself asking for it. How can I be a feminist and still enjoy this?

The Globe’s answer: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/im-a-feminist-who-enjoys-dominating-sex-help/article13304573/

My answer: It can be off-putting at first to realize that your body is having a physical reaction to something that goes against what your brain has believed for years. And by off-putting I mean that it can sometimes fill us with shame, guilt, fear, and other tortured emotions. Women have spent so long fighting for equality and against abuse and suddenly, what’s this … I like being hit? Does this mean I’m defecting from feminism? Am I a traitor to my sisters in the cause?

Allow me to get straight to the heart of your question before we get into some of the other details. You can still be a feminist while enjoying rough, submissive sex because your values, ethics, morals, and views outside of the bedroom still exist when the playtime is finished. You can still be a feminist because it’s possible for the person that you are outside of the bedroom to coexist with the woman you are in the bedroom, without one tearing down the other.

How do I know this personally? Well, as someone who also considers myself to be a feminist, I too have had to struggle with my desire to be choked or smacked around. I fought it intensely at first and it’s been quite a journey of self discovery to really understand it for myself over the years. But I’ve come to realize that I don’t just like rough play in the bedroom, I often need it. It gives me balance, a sense of calm, and a way to reset myself. I’ve also realized that it doesn’t have to be gender specific for me. While it’s easier for me to surrender into that role with a man – Daddy issues, perhaps? – it’s happened with women as well; women who are also feminists themselves.

There are countless women out there who share similar fantasies and desires. We’ve fought long and hard against the patriarchy, with many battles still to be won, but there is a part of some of us that longs to give up control at the hands of the men we are with. Because this time? It’s on our terms. There is a very big difference between non-consensual abuse and giving your submission over to someone. There’s a lot of power that comes with that offering, although to the outside eye it may seem as though the one doing the roughhousing holds all the power.

And to some degree, yes. We cannot deny the fact that the person with their hands around your neck temporarily is in a MUCH greater position of power than you. They have the ability to cause serious physical harm to you should they a) be an asshole abuser masquerading as someone who’s into kinky sex and / or b) not know the proper techniques for how to “hurt” someone safely.

There are many people, of all genders, who enjoy surrendering control to someone else. Some do it because their daily lives are filled with so much responsibility that they yearn for those moments when they can relinquish that control and be in someone’s else’s hands. Others may require submission to help them deal with issues of trauma from the past, perhaps to reclaim that negative space as an act of empowerment. There are people who enjoy the idea of age play as a time where they can be free to act as they like under the watchful, stern eye of a sexy parental figure. And there are those who simply enjoy the things that you do for the sensation that it brings them. There is no right or wrong answer for why you might enjoy these activities, as long as everyone involved is on the same page and practicing good safety techniques.

What is a concern for me is the fact that it seems like you’ve never experienced this kind of relationship before and that you’re doing it so early on with a new partner. Do you feel that you can trust him already with such a large responsibility? Did the rough sex just … happen … and it is a happy accident that you actually enjoy it so much? Hitting and choking a partner, whether it’s been three weeks or three years, is not something that should just happen without conversations around boundaries, limits, and fantasies. If you haven’t established both a safe word and a physical cue that you can give him (should you be unable to speak) when you want the play to stop – and know that in that instant it should stop immediately, without question – then do so now.

It might seem right now that choking is all fun and games for you, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not playing in dangerous territory. While this sentence might sound strange to some, there are in fact ways to choke someone ‘properly’ and ways to do it that can cause an awful lot of damage. I recommend that you do some research together to learn the best practices, warning signs and recommendations for this type of activity. Tristan Taormino’s video Expert Guide to Advanced Anal Sex talks about choking safety in its special features. There’s also resources like The Kink Academy, books like Morpheous’ How to Be Kinky / Kinkier and online communities like FetLife, where you can ask questions of like minded individuals.

At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide how far you are ok with things going in the bedroom and communicating your limits is your responsibility. It is your boyfriend’s responsibility to then honour and respect your limits, without question. And if he doesn’t respect them, well then, the only person that’s being a bad feminist in that situation, is him.


  • Herpestidae Rubedo

    You are officially my new favourite sex columnist. Now all we need to do is get them to start paying you a wage 😉 I hope you write more of these. In particular, I love comparing the ‘before’ and ‘after’ responses.
    Can we send you bad advice we come across, so you can fix it too?

  • Lady Redden

    What happens in the bedroom is fantasy. How you are treated everywhere else is reality. Domination in the bedroom is the fantasy let it be male sub or female sub. That’s it

  • jace robinson

    your answers were rock soild and i find your defense of your ethics outstanding in a pond of little light, the truth shines on.