Submissive Fantasies

Written by my assistant

Submissive fantasies are common among both men and women, but while such male fantasies are often glossed over as "private" and "no one else's business", women's submissive fantasies are often seen as dangerous and up for discussion.  Women who enjoy fantasies where they relinquish power to another are often thought to have internalized dangerous patriarchal precepts.  This may be true to some degree (for example, even feminists who have suffered a sexual assault will sometimes mention what they were wearing at the time, as if to prove that they didn't provoke the attack, even though they would deny anyone bears responsibility for their sexual assault) and it is worth considering, but it doesn't negate the right to enjoy one's sexuality.

Perhaps the most common (and most troubling for some) submissive fantasy involves rape, either by a stranger or someone known to the "victim".  What excites most women about this fantasy isn't vaginal or anal trauma or being beaten, it's the power dynamic and the ability of being safely helpless.  When put into action, the woman is able to let go and put herself in her lover's hands, act out her desires as he acts out his, all the while being able to trust him not to transcend the boundaries or hurt her (at least in ways she doesn't want to be hurt).  She can stop the scene at any time, having first negotiated all sorts of rules.  To clear any confusion most rape fantasists don't want to be raped or rape, they want to simulate the experience of being raped, just as the "rapist" doesn't usually get off on assaulting women who don't want him to do so.

It's been argued that anyone who enjoys fantasies of violence toward or humiliation of women is tacitly accepting violence toward and the humiliation of con-consenting women.  If you are okay with the (consensual) "abuse" of one person, some feminists feel you are legitimizing the abuse of any and all.  While it's generally accepted that external forces, including patriarchy and sexism, shape our personalities and sexualities, it's incredibly patriarchal and sexist to insist that for this reason, women can't consent to any act simulating the negative fruits of patriarchy (rape, violence, abduction, battery, etc.) because they have been victimized and oppressed and are therefore incapable of making healthy decisions.  All of this ignores the fact that batterers, rapists, and abductors don't seek consent and that dominants who simulate these activities derive enjoyment from causing fear and discomfort/pain only when their "victims" participate of their free will.  A certain brand of feminist places a simulated rape performed by two individuals who have negotiated rules, duration, safe words, etc. for the purposes of mutual sexual satisfaction and a non-consensual attack on the same level.  This is an insult to every individual of any gender identity or orientation who has ever been assaulted, as they were not allowed the luxuries of having their consent sought or a safe word agreed upon.  It has even been argued in past decades that batterers were less problematic than dominants who consensually hit partners because batterers don't usually view what they do as abuse (which they often claim to oppose) while dominants are seen by this sort of feminist as promoting violence against women.

None of these criticisms of dominant/submissive dynamics is something anyone identifying as a feminist would want to be accused of.  Feminists face greater problems than adult women consensually expressing their sexualities in a way that others don't approve of.  Human sexuality is fascinating and it's worthwhile studying the factors that commonly shape and influence it, but claiming sex we feel is immoral as anti-feminist is silly.  For comparison, it is one thing to study the sexist implications of the expectation that women will shave their pubic hair, but another to say it shouldn't be done or to criticize women who do so.  Women should be free to do what they choose with their bodies, even if they choose to do things we don't approve of. 

Your fantasies are an important part of your sexuality.  If you enjoy submissive fantasies, you are in good company, both male and female, and there is nothing (necessarily) wrong with you.  Embrace them, and, if you choose, act them out in a safe manner with a partner you trust.  You are expressing your feminism by making your sexuality a priority in your life.


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