Confessions from a 22-Year-Old Submissive (& Feminist)
I was born this way. When I was four, before I even knew what sex was, I used to masturbate to fantasies of being kidnapped and enslaved. I remember feeling confused and ashamed about my fantasies, but I couldn’t resist indulging them while rubbing my clitoris with a beanie baby. The result was too delicious.
This would become my deepest darkest secret that I would never reveal at sleepovers, that I would never even write in my diaries because I did not want to face how fucked-up I was. Something was deeply and fundamentally wrong with me, and I would sporadically try to “quit” my fantasy-ridden masturbation sessions, much like a drug addict still clinging to the ever-dwindling hope of recovery.
In college, I told my best friend, a psychology minor and ardent feminist, about these childhood fantasies. She suggested that maybe I had unconsciously internalized our society’s subliminal messages that relegate women to inferior, submissive positions. Maybe. But I kind of doubt it. I was FOUR! I grew up in a loving and liberal household and spent my days making crafts at a progressive preschool in Berkeley, California. My teacher was this big lady named Lisa who had a beard and probably knew more about gender non-conformity than any of my college professors. I was offended and hurt by my friend’s suggestion because it implied that I was complicit in perpetuating the patriarchy. Being a feminist myself, I like to think of myself as an independent, autonomous rebel. So why do I want to be tied up and gagged in the bedroom? Only a psychotic person would want to have their freedom taken away, right?
For a while, I tried to move away from BDSM, to become a normal person who enjoys or at least lives with vanilla sex. Maybe if I ignored the fantasies, they would go away. If I could cure myself of my kinks, I wouldn’t have to be ashamed anymore. I stopped masturbating. I had mediocre, floppy sex. I faked approximately 70 orgasms. Then, Fifty Shades of Grey came out. Yeah, that one. Indeed it’s a terribly written book glorifying abusive relationships, but it also saved me from my identity crisis. The worldwide success of Fifty Shades let me know that I am not the only one interested in power play. Christian Grey caught the zeitgeist, and for the first time I gave myself permission to type my kink into the Google search bar.
As it turns out, BDSM is not a pathological symptom, and wanting to be submissive in the bedroom is not a sign of weakness. A recent psychology study with 1336 participants found that as compared to control subjects, BDSM practitioners were less neurotic, more extraverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection sensitive, had higher subjective well-being, yet were less agreeable. In other words, there is sound scientific evidence that people who like BDSM are not mentally ill and actually have mostly favorable psychological characteristics. Hoorah! There is nothing wrong with me! Well, there are a lot of things wrong with me, but my kinky wiring is not one of them.
BDSM gets a bad rep. There is a popular misconception that BDSM is inherently abusive and symptomatic of rape culture. I understand where this misconception comes from: I mean, what are you supposed to think when you see someone being bound, gagged, and spanked? But what you have to understand about BDSM is that it is a practice built within the framework of consent. Communication has to occur before, after, and during. Parameters need to be set—“This is what I want you to do to me; this is what I don’t want you to do to me”—and a safe-word agreed upon. Yes, there are people who abuse the power wielded to them in BDSM relationships, but there are also plenty of people that abuse power in vanilla relationships. If anything, BDSM allows you to think more deeply about the power dynamics that exist inherently in every relationship and to be more conscientious about consent.
My last partner and I experimented with BDSM in the bedroom. He was a liberal musician, and I was undeniably in love with him. I trusted him enough to tell him about my fantasies, and he respected me enough to give me what I wanted. He pulled my hair and tied me to the bedposts. We made love, and we fucked. He was the only partner that indulged my kinky fantasies, and, incidentally, the only partner ever to make me come. I told him to make me his slave, and he did, but the rolls that we assumed in the proverbial “bedroom” had nothing to do with the rolls we assumed in everyday life, which goes to show that our intellect is separate from our arousal. Sex became a space for me to let go of my day-to-day persona and sink into sensation.
I am single now, but I still treat myself to mind-blowing orgasms everyday. My kinky fantasies get me there every time. I’m still exploring my sexuality, confused and ever-curious, but I’ve come to accept my kink. I didn’t choose it. I was born this way.