Can you be a feminist and a submissive?

I usually try to be more inclusive with pronouns, but this topic seems very specific to submissive women who submit to men so I’m going to focus on M/F, but there are many parts of this that are going to apply to the role regardless of gender so bear that in mind.

It’s no secret that some feminists have conflicts with submissive women. The concept that feminism gives us the right to CHOOSE to submit is often lost in the translation. Not only do you have the right to submit, but you have the right to be a housewife, and a stay-at-home mother, and still be feminist. The whole point of feminism is that no one is telling us who we have to be.

Despite that, I’ve been told “You’re not a feminist.” “You have no right to say you’re a feminist if you submit to men!” “You’re holding women back!” or “You encourage men to treat us all like we’re submissive.”

But feminism is about choice. Submission is my choice and I’m open about it. The fact that I sometimes submit to men doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to be a feminist. It certainly doesn’t mean that I want to have all my rights stripped away so any passing guy can tell me what to do. Far from it! I choose who I will submit to and I don’t believe submission should be forced on anyone, ever.

But sometimes it is pushed into my face how different my view can be. It took years for me to be able to call myself a feminist, and even now people will say things to me that will shake my confidence that I have the right to declare myself as one. Mostly it’s women who have attacked me for the choice— and I see the fear in them that my choice might somehow spill over onto them.

But it isn’t just women who think I don’t have a place as a feminist. Male Doms have also told me that as a submissive I should reject the idea of feminism. Because of that I get anxious, and nervous even talking about this subject. They all have it wrong though. I don’t choose to be submissive because I believe that women are naturally subs, or that men should naturally be in charge.

I don’t choose to be submissive because I think that’s my place in the pecking order as a woman. I choose it because I enjoy it, and it suits my personality. It’s who I am on the most basic level. I’m not submissive to everyone. In fact, I can be quite dominant to some people and I’ve had plenty of submissives of my own. But I need a relationship I can be submissive in to keep my life stable and content.

I think a lot of people misunderstand the core precepts of feminism too. Because of the name it’s assumed it’s all about women and their rights, but it’s not. It’s not lost on me that the very fact it’s an issue is because a lot of men have problems with anything they see as feminine. Therefore femin-ism is something to be laughed at and certainly not for men.

But it’s not just about having the right to vote or paying the same wage to all genders.

In a perfect world men would feel entirely comfortable openly being submissive and letting other people take charge instead of being bullied over it, but I guess we’re just not there yet. While women are still working towards equality with pay gaps in the workplace, and an unfair burden of chores on them at home, especially around childcare, men also still struggle to have the right to be anything less than dominant.

And I’m not talking about a BDSM context here where reverse gender norms are actually more common. I’m talking about regular life. Men who ‘let’ their wives run things are considered ‘pussy whipped’ and mocked for it. Men who identify as feminists or stand up for women are ‘cucks’. Anything less than projecting an alpha male style dominance still seems to be a problem for many people.

Toxic masculinity is a problem for everyone, and no one is really sure what to do about it. As a submissive woman my views are often disregarded on this topic, even by other women. Inside the BDSM culture my role is perfectly accepted, but outside the response varies.

For instance, someone recently asked for an example of positive masculine traits in a group I’m in about mansplaining. I said ‘Protective’ and I got a lecture on how no, protective is toxic because it encourages men to be violent and treat women like children. Needless to say, I didn’t disclose I was a submissive to this woman because I knew it wouldn’t go over well.

But I don’t think protectiveness is a toxic trait in itself. It’s only toxic when you use it to control people who don’t want that. If you don’t want it in your relationship then it might feel toxic to you, but I think protective is an ideal quality in a mate for me.

Of course, maybe their definition of protective is flawed. After all many abusers use needing to protect someone as an excuse to isolate them. (This isn’t a tangent; I promise. It’s all connected.)

But there is a difference between protective and controlling. There’s a difference between being protective and treating someone like a child. And obviously being protective doesn’t automatically mean you have authority over someone.

Not all women want or need to be protected, and many of them see a man trying to protect them as a sign that he’s asserting his will over them. And that’s understandable, because sometimes that’s exactly what is happening.

In a lot of ways this ties into a consent issue. Whether your relationship is BDSM or strictly vanilla you still have a right to boundaries. If it’s something that you don’t want from a man in your life, then it should be discussed. It goes without saying that any men who don’t listen to your limits are men you shouldn’t be with. You have a right to say “I don’t want you to try to protect me from things. I can handle it myself.”

But to return to the definition of protective, we do have to realize that people look at it from different angles. I mean for me… I think being protective of a partner is natural. It doesn’t matter what your gender or orientation is; when you love someone, you want to keep them safe. I’m a submissive woman and I still try to protect the people I love, including my Doms.

But when people use the word protective, they often equate it with taking away control, stifling someone. They see it as a kind of forced submission. Probably because many of us have experience with parents trying to protect us as children. Keeping us safe meant curfew, rules, and even spying on us.

Parents often try to control a child’s every action. They want to know where they are at all times. They want to decide who you can be friends with and where you can play because they have to keep you safe. And there is some truth to that. Children haven’t fully developed their sense of self-control or ability to make good choices so a certain amount of that needs to be handled by the parents.

Children start to rebel at those tight structures as they get older, and they should. It’s how they form their own independence. But it does leave some with a lingering dislike of being told what to do.

And sometimes people have abusive partners in their background who tried the same controlling behaviors. A lover who said you couldn’t dress the way you wanted because it wouldn’t be safe. A boyfriend who said he didn’t want you going out unless he was with you because he needed to protect you, but really, he was just afraid you might find another guy you liked better.

All of that happens under the guise of being protective. None of it is a healthy form of protectiveness for an adult partner.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. That’s not the only way to be protective of a person. Sometimes being protective just means worrying when they are late getting home on a stormy night and calling to make sure everything is okay. Sometimes it’s making sure their tires are in good shape. Or offering to take care of the house chores so they can get some extra rest because they aren’t feeling great. That’s the kind of protectiveness you should see in a partner, in my opinion. It’s a positive trait in any partner.

In a D/s relationship that protectiveness will play out different. And this will probably feel controlling to people who aren’t in those kinds of dynamics, and that’s where consent comes in. The protection of a Dom comes with rules and safeguards that should not be put into place unless the submissive wants those things.

As a submissive woman, I want both kinds of protectiveness. From my Doms I want them to keep me safe by controlling my actions in the agreed-upon limits. From a romantic partner (and those aren’t always the same thing) I want loving concern, and care which can be a form of protectiveness.

But wanting that protectiveness in my partners doesn’t mean I’m not a feminist and we need to normalize separating people’s roles in a relationship from their rights as a human being. Jut because I submit doesn’t mean I want to be paid less at work. Just because I’m a submissive doesn’t mean I should be expected to work full time and do all the housework too.

I’m going to leave you with one last thought to tie it all together. In my opinion, a BDSM dynamic, when managed the way it should be, can be far healthier than a regular relationship. The emphasis on consent and on communication gives you more tools to make your needs and desires known. And the emphasis on the submissive always having the power to say stop, which the Top must obey, gives the people in the relationship equality. Even if it doesn’t seem very equal from the outside.

Being a submissive and a feminist should never be an issue in the scene, because that equality is built into the dynamic in many ways. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t understand the community at all.

Maybe if all relationships had that kind of structure, women wouldn’t need to think of protectiveness as a toxic trait.

It would just be part of the conversation. The woman would be fully able to say ‘no thanks’ to anything she wasn’t comfortable with. When your relationship is built on discussions about hard and soft limits, safewords, and what you need and desire, it’s a lot easier to get what you want.

That’s not to say abuse can’t happen in a D/s relationship. Abusers are everywhere and the BDSM community is especially seductive to them. But if you are using healthy guidelines to set up a relationship, which includes discussion and setting boundaries and limits, you will very quickly be able to tell abuse from dominance.

And protectiveness from toxic behavior.

That’s all for now. Remember stay healthy, and stay home if you can because we’re not out of the woods yet.

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