[My] Feminism & BDSM

Recently I had the privilege of participating in Playground, Toronto’s annual sexuality conference.  The Conference sets itself a big mandate; to be inclusive of all communities; and while it’s not perfect, I think the conference truly is planned with this goal in mind and the organizers give it more than mere lip service.  At this point what will make it better is continued growth in audience and in speaker reach; and I believe that will happen – after all, I’ve been attending Playground since 2011 and have seen it grow  bigger and better each year.

This year I spoke in 3 different sessions:  Kink Outside of the Community, BDSM and Feminism, and the closing plenary Cultivating Resistance: Challenging Spaces, Supporting Selves – and have I mentioned that I’m grateful the conference producers JP and Sam trusted Aida and I enough to accept a proposal original titled What to do when our spaces fuck us over – two guesses as to who proposed that title 😉

As always I left the conference coming up with points I wish I had expanded on; but – and really especially in time limited situations there is only so much that can be said without me being a total panel hog; and I’ve got my own blog.  I don’t need to hog the mic one bit.

So I wanted to expand today on what I meant when I said my BDSM informs my feminism and vice versa.  I know these two can seem like conflicting identities and that this particular intersection is something a lot of people struggle with when they explore one or the other.  Really, in the whole time I’ve considered myself to be both a feminist and a pervert they’ve been at odds in various sorts of ways.

Does that surprise you to hear?  That I’m not as settled as I’d like to be? Because I’m not – frankly, I’m not sure anyone could be perfectly settled on these pairing of practices without going the no fucks route.  BDSM and feminism are strange bedfellows indeed: one is founded on the principles of equality and justice; and the other is often about revelling in all things problematic.  Yes choice is key, but to shove any further questioning away by answering choice ignores the various complexities that go into my choices.  They aren’t always from a healthy or informed place and I need to regard them critically.

So, at this point in my life I’ve come to embrace both as the other’s check and balance.  For me, they actually help keep each other honest; and keep me on the path that I really do want to walk in life.

BDSM has taught my feminism to be more open-minded; to spend more time considering personal perspectives, and to pause and investigate before passing moral judgement on the various thoughts, opinions and arguments that come my way.  It’s also shown me how to separate out fantasy and reality and that making space for both is emotionally healthy for me.

In turn, feminism pushes my BDSM to be more considerate of others: there is most definitely a line between okay and not – even in this world – and that line is other people.  When you fetishize a thing it remains a thing.  When you fetishize a person (and their race, gender, ability, genitalia, etc) you’re turning that person into a thing – and that’s not okay.  Your desires don’t trump someone else’s autonomy (hat tip to Mollena Williams for insights that helped me get my thoughts readable on this).  That is not okay.  Think about it – if any black man, Asian girl, woman with a penis or amputee will do; you’ve made a misstep; go back reconsider, do better.  What is it really that turns you on?  Whatever quality that is, it cannot be generalize to a group, so get straight on the qualities that get you hot and go out looking for them and never forget that people are not fetishes.

Feminism also makes me more aware of the political implications of my personal choices.  As a fellow conference goer pointed out during the session, our personal choices are informed by our politics and our social realities just as much as our personal choices impact and affect our politics and social realities – it’s all layers and complexities up in here; and that means pretty consistent engagement with what I do and how I do it.  Yes, this can be exhausting, so I’ve also carved out spaces for myself where I can drop that engagement, turn off that part of my brain and be.  Is that feminist or not?  Who knows – it’s self-care and I can’t be out here in the world doing what I do without it.  But those spaces are private, and shared only with people I can be sure get what’s going on between us and the larger political and social implications of that.  I prefer to play and fuck feminists, womanists, humanists and activists because they get that in a way a lot of people don’t.

I’m honestly not sure if these two very important parts of my life will ever be fully compatible; both my feminism and my sexuality continuously evolve in ways that require me to take in new information and shred outdated mindsets on a regular basis – so settled might never actually be on the table.

But at this point I appreciate them both and the qualities they bring to my life and that’s good enough for me.

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One thought on “[My] Feminism & BDSM

  1. sookiegirl says:

    Ah..I don’t know you from diddle squat and a few blogs I’ve read Heather but no, it doesn’t surprise me to read. Isn’t there discomfit and effort required to consider any philosophy or paradigm. How else do we evolve. How else do we create. How else do we cope through the pain of being.

    Blah’de’Blah lol

    I like your line about fetishising a person being akin to turning them into a thing. THAT is the problem with fantasies. ‘Things’ tend to eventually ‘want’ stuff. You know, like being respected and liked for more than their joy bits.

    sgx

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