I consider myself a feminist, proudly so, passionately so. I am liberal, far into mid-life, I believe in equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunity. I have my own career, I earn my own money, keep it in my own bank account, and I certainly make my own life decisions. I have written dramatic defenses (literally dramatic, as in TV movies) about treating people, especially girls and women, with respect and dignity. Which is why it took me many nervous months to decide to write the words in this blog, to feel right about publicly advocating for female sexual submission within marriage.
Wait, I cannot say I feel completely “right” about it. I have been writing this during the months before the 2016 election, when Donald Trump’s hostile sexism and open disdain for women has been making news each day. His Access Hollywood audio-heard-round-the-world of bragging about his sexual assaults on women, grabbing them “by the pussy” without their consent, has made headlines and started a national conversation about how women are frequently traumatized by a male sense of sexual entitlement to their bodies. Many anguished accounts from sexual assault victims have popped up all over the media, while on the flip side, many unapologetic men started the hashtag, #repealthe19th, expressing their desire to take away a woman’s right to vote.
So, of course, I feel conflicted about what I am writing here, especially since Trump won, leaving women to feel, yet again, that our society is just fine with sexual harassment. I am needled with fears of how my words might be interpreted. I know how hard women have fought in our culture – and are still fighting today – against being seen as sexual objects. I do not want to present any kind of word or idea that can be interpreted as justifying rape culture or viewing women as second class citizens.
But, because I am a feminist, I feel the need to stand up for my truth, and my truth is this: I submit to my husband sexually. Whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, he gets it, no hesitation, no choice in my mind. I am not talking about the pop culture version of Dominance and submission (D/s), with it’s 50 Shades of Grey trendiness and elaborate protocols – although I do believe the 50 Shades phenomenon tapped into a true feminine longing for erotic surrender. Nor am I talking about the thriving BDSM subculture one sees on Fetlife and other sites, a fetish community that celebrates implements of pain, extreme images of female subjugation, and ways of thinking that do not speak to me and my desires (I am not a dirty little cumslut whore).
My form of sexual submission is much more quiet and deep and, I hope, more evolved than the pornographic stereotypes. It does not involve “scenes” or props or costumes or safe-words. (Not that props and costumes aren’t fun once in awhile.) This power exchange dynamic evolved spontaneously between my husband and I, arising from our instincts and desires of the moment. It was only later that we began to use Dominance and submission language as a way of framing what was happening to us, and discussing it with each other. The basic D/s model has proven useful to us, creating a symbolic doorway or path that allowed us to work our way beyond the egalitarian 50/50 style of sexually relating that we previously understood as an “enlightened.” We still use D/s language, for lack of anything better, and still use the D/s framework as a symbolic container for the way we conduct our sexual life. So, I will continue to write these words from a D/s standpoint.
The Joys of Sexual Polarity
To me, my submission is not a kink (not that there’s anything wrong with getting kinky), but a natural expression of my true sexual nature. I ran across a study (Jozifkova, 2012) that states sexual arousal in response to dominance might be hardwired into women as a way to ensure the survival of the species. Apparently, cavewomen understood that having babies with the dominant male of the clan improved the odds of her children making it to adulthood. I certainly believe myself to be hardwired for it. When I submit my body to my husband I can feel myself in alignment with a potent energy that flows the more it yields, a phenomenon which the Tantric philosopher David Deida helped me understand with his theories about the masculine and feminine and sexual polarity.
It was also Deida who helped me understand the important difference between what he calls “Stage One” Dominance, which is fueled by a male self-centered control of the female, and what he calls the more enlightened “Stage Three” masculine dominance that serves the fulfillment of the feminine. In fact, it was reading his book, Intimate Communion, in the early months of our power dynamic exploration, with his gorgeous language about the joys of being “ravished,” that gave me the intellectual grounding I needed to let myself go into my first true experiences of sexual ecstasy.
Beyond all that, submission turned out to be an expression of love for my husband that has created deep intimacy and built great trust between us, creating a more peaceful and satisfying union. I would even go so far as to say that I experience D/s as a spiritual devotion, maybe even a spiritual path, which teaches me how to deal with a self-important ego, and how to surrender to the rhythms of physical life.
Because of these surprisingly positive and profound impacts on me and my marriage, I do not want to keep my submission hidden, or hold it within me like a shameful secret. I very much wish someone had told me about the joys of sexual power exchange decades ago. I think I would have had fewer relationship issues, happier marriages and a much happier life. Perhaps there are other women who might not have considered submission beyond naughty fantasy, but who might be as transformed by the strange magic of D/s as I have been. It is for those women I am sharing my experience. As Clarissa Thorn writes in the S&M Feminist, “Openly acknowledging, owning, and discussing your sexual preferences can help others respect those preferences – and can help others who share those preferences respect themselves.”
A Woman’s Right to Submit
Still, the worry that my words will be misunderstood and misinterpreted – or worse, used by men to justify rape or other ways of abusing the rights of women – has been almost paralyzing at times, making me stop work on these pages for long stretches at a time. I finally realized that it is not up to me to manage how this is received. No matter how carefully I try to phrase my thoughts, the history and cultural landscape of “women as sexual objects” is vast, and laden with mines. I have decided to keep going, and hope that by setting down my one unique experience, nothing will explode in my face.
The irony is that I believe sexual submission would not be such a powerful experience if it was not firmly rooted in a woman’s right to decide what happens to her body. The gift of my submission, this unconditional “yes” to my husband, would be meaningless if I did not first have the right to say no. Feminism has worked hard for me and all women, and it won for me the right to express my sexuality in whatever way I choose – and I believe the choice to submit sexually to my husband is as valid as any other, and as empowering to me as a woman as any other choice.
Another irony of D/s is that the power ultimately flows from the submissive. The dominant can only dominate through the permission of the submissive, otherwise he risks going to jail (thank you feminists). I feel strongly that D/s, at least as my husband and I practice it, is a post-feminism phenomenon, and could not exist without a clear understanding of a woman’s right to her own body, and thus her right to surrender her body to her husband’s use. The result for me has been a paradoxical increase in the amount of respect and care I receive from my husband. He feels responsible for me and my body, and while he may sometimes “selfishly” use me for his own pleasure (though it never feels that way to me), he more often spends his time and effort pouring pleasure into me. I am a thousand times more sexually fulfilled and pleasured as a sexual submissive than I ever was with a 50/50 partner.
Of course, I do acknowledge that might have less to do with D/s as it does to the quality of the man I married. Which is why I want to make clear that I am not advocating sexual submission in a casual way, the way it is described on BDSM sites as “playing” with others. I don’t judge those who choose to explore in that arena; it thrills many. But I can only personally advocate submission within the safe boundaries of a committed relationship, to a mature and trustworthy person who respects women as equals, and who takes up dominance with a feeling of great responsibility and care. So please read the words in this blog knowing they are anchored firmly in the context of real love, real commitment.
Thanks for this post. It echoes recent discussions I’ve had.
YES! YES! YES!