A few weeks back, I reviewed Kate Kinsey’s book “Red” and loved it. We at Lady Smut also loved her honesty, integrity, and willingness to answer our questions, so we kept the conversation going. We realize most blog posts are not this long. But this is a subject and a lady that requires more than your average length post. So dear reader enjoy our first guest post—by the wonderful Kate Kinsey.
I am a well-educated woman in my forties, unmarried and childless by choice, with not just one career, but three: graphic artist, fine artist/crafter and writer. I am independent, opinionated, and I have no qualms about calling myself a feminist.
I am also a submissive in a BDSM relationship of twelve years. That’s right. I wear a collar. I kneel. I say, “Yes, sir.” And I enjoy it.
Every woman with half a brain who approaches BDSM as a lifestyle choice has asked themselves the same question: how can any modern woman — let alone a card-carrying feminist — embrace submission?
Well, at first you feel kind of weird about it. Maybe a tad guilty. Then you do some long, hard thinking about the paradoxes that populate and define BDSM. You do some more long, hard thinking about who you are, what you want, and what makes you happy and fulfilled.
You think about the fundamental thing at the very heart of feminism: the right to choose your own path.
Fifty years ago, a woman being spanked over her husband’s knee for buying the wrong brand of coffee was considered completely acceptable. Now, if a wife wants to be spanked over her husband’s knee just for fun, it’s considered weird at best.
Fifty years ago, it was purely a man’s prerogative to spank/chastise/beat his wife for deviating from the acceptable “norm” in any way… or just because he wanted to.
Now, if it’s the wife asking for the spanking because it arouses her, and arouses him as well, that element of choice and the difference in the motivation for it changes everything completely. Or does it?
Because, of course, our collective psyche carries all the baggage about what those acts mean symbolically and historically. Most of us understand that we are playing with those stereotypes, and that these often arouse us precisely because, on some level, we are turning those stereotypes and expectations inside out.
A submissive is not synonymous with “doormat.” Submission is all about making a personal choice to submit to a particular person, at a particular time, within carefully negotiated limits. To participate in our reindeer games, you must first figure out what you want and what you don’t want, and you absolutely must learn how to be honest and clear in your communication about it.
This is how all relationships are supposed to be, but BDSM has made communication and consent its holy mantra. We actually have checklists, for God’s sake! Some of us even have contracts!
I think back to my first “vanilla” sexual experiences, and I wish that I’d had the strength and wisdom to say to my partner: I want this, not that. More of this, less of that. And can we try X, Y and a little Z? Because that is exactly what you do before engaging in play of any sort in the kinky world, whether it’s a casual “scene” at the local dungeon or beginning a relationship.
Unfortunately, some women do come into this without understanding that being a submissive does not mean you are submissive to just anyone and everyone. Sometimes we have to educate those self-proclaimed dominants who think any and every submissive is his for the taking. Want to start a small-scale war? Just let a dominant man walk into a club and snap his finger at the first woman he sees with a collar around her neck, barking, “Bring me a drink!” It’s not her master that will cut his balls off, it’s her.
I’ve used “him” as dominant, and “her” for the submissive, but that’s simply because that’s the particular dynamic that concerns feminism. The female submissive/male dominant coupling gets the most attention from the vanilla world, but it’s not the whole of BDSM.
BDSM is NOT about gender roles. Submissive and dominant have nothing to do with male/female. There are many female dominants and male submissives. There are women – straight and lesbian – who submit to other women, men who submit to other men. We talk about dominant and submissive as an orientation, like straight, gay or bisexual. It’s not unusual for someone to be dominant with one or more partner, and submissive with another.
I began exploring my fantasies when I was 38. I had been a rebel since college, fiercely independent and determined not to be defined by the men in my life. Yet in my secret fantasies, being dominated by a man in the bedroom really got my juices flowing. (I blame it on a Southern Baptist upbringing. I was intensely curious about sex, but was convinced that I would never have sex until my wedding night. Unless, of course, some dashing, mysterious pirate kidnapped and ravished me. Yes, please!)
When I finally began meeting dominant men, I found myself thinking, “Hell, I’m more dominant that he is!” I nearly put a stiletto heel through the foot of one “dominant” who got a little too persistent one night at the dungeon.
Then I met the right dominant. Not the right dominant for everyone, but the right one for me, and he happened to be male. I’d submitted to several women, and enjoyed it, but the sexual dynamic wasn’t quite right. I’d played with several men, and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite right either… until I found him.
There is something inside me that wants to submit, that gains tremendous satisfaction from it, but it will only come out when the right person calls to it. And when that happens, it’s as if the floodgates open.
Consider the enormous intensity of emotions that come from “play” that taps into our deepest, darkest and most primal places, that engages not just the body but the heart and mind.
It’s deeper and wider than mere “sex”: new sensations that you never knew were possible, exploring the body more thoroughly than ever before, sending adrenaline and endorphins and hormones coursing through your veins to heighten every sensation. You are doing things you have always wanted to do but never before dared, things that require more trust and honesty than you have ever shared with another before….
How could I not adore the person who gave me all of that? When I came through whatever he asked of me, and saw his pleasure and pride in me, it was the sweetest satisfaction I’d ever known. Did I question myself as a woman? Yes. But I got over it. Because isn’t the surest definition of a feminist a woman who does exactly what she wants because it makes her happy and fulfilled?
It’s tough to admit but one of the things I came to love about D/s was the clarity and simplicity of it.
I’m certainly not arguing for a throwback to 1954, because such clearly defined roles can never work without the wholehearted choice of a willing heart. That was the whole problem with 1954: it was assumed that every woman would be a good little housewife whether she wanted to or not. There was no choice involved at all.
But neither should you think that a D/s relationship means Sir gets to have his way all the time and I just have to go along with it. I have choices. He has obligations. And every bit of it is open to negotiation all the time.
When I became my Sir’s “slave,” I willingly made all my thoughts and feelings his property, which meant that it was not my place to decide what to hide and what to reveal. Sounds barbaric? Then consider what it means: none of that silent stewing that we women so often fall pray to. I’m not allowed to say, “I’m fine” when I’m really pissed as hell. No sulking allowed.
In the D/s relationship, my responsibility is to be honest and truthful, as long as I express myself respectfully. And he has the responsibility to listen to what I tell him, to be sure my needs are being taken care of, that I feel valued and loved.
In agreeing to be his slave, I agreed to give up the struggle to always be right, and that was a BIG one for me. Not to get the last word. Not to score points with a stinging comeback. No more keeping score of his mistakes to hit him over the head with later. I realized just how much bullshit sexual warfare there had been in my other relationships. To give that up was such a relief!
There is no one correct way to do any of this. Do some masters/mistresses refuse to let anyone speak to their collared sub without their permission? Some do. Mine has always told me that he doesn’t require or want such micromanagement, and that he loves me for being an independent woman who can speak for herself. And if he’d wanted to micromanage me, I probably wouldn’t have remained his for all these years. The D/s only works when both individuals needs and desires mesh and complement each other.
The whole issue of the collar is a sore spot for many feminists. But there’s a vast difference in what an outsider believes the collar to mean, and what it really means to those who practice BDSM. A collar is as much as symbol of commitment as of ownership, the BDSM equivalent of a wedding ring, for those who take it seriously. For some, it’s just a fashion statement, a prop, a part of the “costume.” And it’s okay either way. We really like our costumes!
Last but not least, please understand that the desire to submit or to dominate is NOT the result of abuse or psychological damage. This is one of the most persistent and damaging stereotypes, and the favorite of those feminists who protest against BDSM as degrading to women. Are there survivors of abuse and incest in the BDSM community? Of course. They are also in your local Chamber of Commerce and PTA, because physical and sexual abuse is an epidemic in our society. But most of the people I know who practice BDSM come from very uneventful backgrounds.
The few I’ve known who do have abuse of some kind in their past have come to BDSM as a way of reclaiming the sexuality that was stolen from them. With its emphasis on communication and the sanctity of consent, BDSM gives them a safe space in which to work out those hurts and fears.
What has made Fifty Shades of Grey and other BDSM erotica so popular is exactly the same thing that brings women to BDSM in general. It’s arousing to think of being swept away by passion, to be so desired by a man that he wants to “take” you and “own” you. It’s exciting to break the taboos and walk along the edge of naughty. But none of it would be at all exciting or arousing if choice wasn’t at the core of it.
BDSM is all about choice, power, pleasure and self-realization. And if my book (Red) has helped readers understand BDSM even a little bit better, than I am more than pleased. I’m grateful.
For more information on Kate, check out her website.