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Submission (im)possible? The great submissive feminist dilemma

Is there such a thing as a submissive feminist? Let’s look into how these two seemingly contradictory dynamics might coexist.

By Giada | 1 May 2022

The balance between liberation and submission has been discussed for years. In the sex and relationship sphere, we often wonder if being sexually submissive is inherently anti-feminist. Is it so?

Feminist bibles such as Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist remind us just how imperfect feminism can be, as the natural consequence of being thought up by innately imperfect people. Attempts to reconcile submissiveness and emancipation bring up a number of questions and contradictions, although they might not be so antagonistic after all.

“At times I worry I might not be a good feminist if…”

Feminists are often depicted and dismissed as angry man-hating sex-averse women, a series of clichés most likely thought up by those who fear them the most. Many women do however doubting their own sexuality and desires.

Many feminists wonder if there is a right kind of feminism. The only “right” kind of feminism is a more inclusive feminism that would take into account the complexity of the human experience. Some might end up defining themselves as bad feminists (rather than not feminist at all) as a consequence (or solution) as opposed to the “perfect feminist” injunction.

Feminism is complex and constantly evolving, but one thing is for sure: in a romantic or sexual relationship, intersectional feminism, which acknowledges the imperfect and multifaceted nature of people, allows us to decide what role to assume. Even if that role is defined is “submissive”.

Is the problem with submission submission itself or how people look at it?

Why is submission considered problematic? Society has driven us to believe submissive is something only women get to be. If feminism relies on women choosing “not to be dominated, they cannot de facto choose to be submissive. Especially by a man.

Emancipation teaches us to make our voices heard and choose for ourselves, to freely explore our sexual spectrum, whatever it might encompass. This would solve the submissiveness dilemma, if it wasn’t for the notions on gender roles we have internalised over the years.

Can there be a feminist sexual imaginary?

Censoring ourselves is a surefire way to limit our sexual imagination and deprive ourselves from the opportunity to express, explore and evolve our desires. We should also keep in mind that in our “contradictory” fantasies, we always get to play both roles, as both dominant and submissive.

All these years fought to achieve sexual freedom, we need to reclaim the right to choose, choose what role to take on and what fantasies to act out. In order to find our own personal balance.

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