Thursday, October 9, 2008

Can I Be a Feminist and a Bottom in Bed?

This is my first post to Fourth Wave, and I feel a little like I'm dropping into your world in mid-sentence. I maintain a blog at and I will be cross-posting feminist-y bits and pieces from that site here. Hopefully that won't make my writing here too scattered; I figured it's just best to dive right in.

That said, here goes:

I'm a huge bottom in the bedroom. My best friend calls me "Little Nelly Bottom."

Depending on what sexual subculture you spend your time in, this could mean any of a million things. I spend most of my time in the lesbian community, and a little in the BDSM world, so that colors my understanding of the term. I use it to mean I like someone else to be in the driver's seat for sex, and I like to be on the tied-down end of bondage, a little spanking, and some power play.

Now, being in the passenger's seat doesn't mean I don't communicate my needs or that I'm not contributing to the action. I just like to get fucked. I like it when my lover takes control; I like to be pushed around a little, and I like being told what to do. As I've said before in my blog, I love to tease, but then I want to be thrown down and made to stop. (With appropriate consent, of course.)

I try to be comfortable with my naughty subservience, but as a feminist and a fiercely independent person, it's an awkward thing to feel and admit to. I get this niggling sense that I should be large and in charge all the time, like my personal politics should be carrying over into my sexual preferences. I'm trying to overthrow gender roles, here. Being submissive in bed is a stereotypically feminine thing. Bad feminist!

I don't consciously subscribe to that way of thinking, but it sneaks up on me a lot. One unfortunate consequence of feminism's emphasis on the personal as political is that it becomes too easy to discriminate against people for not being "feminist enough." I think that feminism is largely about personal choice regardless of gender, and when we try to name some behaviors as always feminist and others as always anti-woman, we're losing sight of that.

It's absolutely true that the patriarchy is created and perpetuated in our personal lives and our culture. There are millions of little ways we all contribute to it every day, without even noticing. It's so programmed into us that it's nearly impossible to get rid of completely. It's good to try not to perpetuate male privilege.

I think there are as many ways to fight patriarchy, though, as there are feminists. I think I can be a sexual bottom in a feminist way. If what I want is to be handcuffed and fucked and I name that, claim it, and go out into the world trying to make it happen, that's a feminist action. Being a woman and respecting my own sexuality and honoring it is a powerful thing.

Controlling female sexuality has been a big way the patriarchy has controlled women. By resisting that and writing my own narrative of sexuality, whatever that may entail, I'm coming into my feminist own. So long as I'm conscious and deliberate, I feel good about being a bottom.

Cross-posted to Paper Cuts and Plastic.


sally said...

I've found (just from conversations with friends) that the women who actively seek the more submissive role in sex are the ones who are strongest and most in control in the other areas in their lives. Similarly, the quiet, shy women are the ones that take control during sex and don't want to be held down, so to speak. In that sense, I don't buy the whole bottom=bad feminist deal if you are making a conscious decision about liking it that way. I think the problem comes when a woman has no real say in which role she plays.

Kekla Magoon said...

Yeah, it seems to me that as long as you and your partner both know you have a choice about how you engage in sex, nothing can be anti-feminist. If you take on a certain role only because you think you're supposed to, that's different. But willing submission isn't the same as genuine subservience, in my book.

Unknown said...

For me, as a feminist, it used to embarrass me to admit how truly submissive I like to be in the bedroom. I used to wonder how it was that I could consider myself a feminist and still desire the man to control the sexual situation and do things that some women may find degrading (while I just found them hot).

But then I realized: it is truly a feminist action to be a sexual woman. Embracing your sexuality, knowing what you want, being able to ask for it, and allowing yourself to enjoy it are all very feminist things. So, for me, that was all the reassurance I needed that yes, I can be a bottom (with both men and women), enjoy being a bottom, and still consider myself a feminist. said...

It seems to me that as long as all parties are consenting adults, it shouldn't matter what one chooses to do in the bedroom, and it certainly shouldn't affect one's sense of worth as a feminist or otherwise.

Basically, I agree with Sally and Kekla and Britni. So. Yeah.

Alyssa said...

Yep, it's definitely the agency that makes the difference.

Another thing that helped me feel more comfortable with it was the fact that I want to be submissive with both men and women. That was a sign to me that it didn't have so much to do with gender construction. It's more about other aspects of my personality. I just like to be tossed around. :-)

S.L. Bond said...

Hi there! I just wrote a post about your post, but it won't be up till Wednesday 'cause it's going to serve as my scheduled weekly post at a group blog where I write.

I just wanted to give you a heads up about it: I've reads lots of stuff in the vein of your post and I'm really exhausted about the conversation, because it seems really obvious to me that, as you conclude, of course one can be a feminist and a bottom. So, in good faith, I wanted to make sure that you know that I'm using your piece as a jumping off point for the broader phenomenon here. It's a good post which I overall agree with; I'm just annoyed that we have to ask this question in the first place!

Best wishes.