by Amanda Marufu (she/her) & edited by Janine Samuels
Image by Adéọlá Adérè̩mí
Imagine being able to cum on command. You hear a voice and as the words are said, your body is instantly compelled to obey. Compelled to please. It’s this taste of submissiveness that you enter that a lot of people call subspace. It's freeing, a state in which only the two of you, or three or four exist. There is nothing but pure unbridled pleasure.
BDSM stands for bondage, discipline (or domination), sadism (or submission), and masochism. You can find out more about BDSM basics and definitions here.
Note: Whilst I will be using his/him pronouns for my partner within this piece, these dynamics are not exclusive to heterosexual couples.
Now back to me, a feminist submissive. Speaking strictly about roles, I am what you would term a switch. I've always known that I was dominant. Often telling people that I wanted a human pet even before I knew the existence of the BDSM community.
There is something seductive about that kind of power. Being in complete control and being able to hold the key to that line between desire, pleasure, and pain. I’ve always been drawn to that kind of power. I had no problem being in control and that’s always been the easiest space for me to exist in. Giving up control when you’ve faced trauma and abuse is one of the hardest things that you could do. So, how did I get here?
I first learned about BDSM when I was 16 and a random guy I didn’t know, whose name I don’t even remember pointed out that girls could masturbate too. I had never imagined that girls could find pleasure from sex or that we even had the right to enjoy sex. It was that night that I had my very first orgasm at my own hands and it was electrifying.
Once I had felt that taste of self-pleasure, I was hooked. I quickly learned that porn, especially straight porn, freaked me out and it was within the deep pages of sex stories I truly felt seen.
The world of kink was both friendly and scary. For years I was convinced if someone found out then they might get the wrong idea. Being hogtied and spanked sounded fun but then it also requires an immense amount of love and trust.
Don’t get me wrong, BDSM isn’t all about sex. For a lot of people, BDSM is a form of escapism. For some, they get to escape during playtime where they get to choose a playmate and role play. Others are lifelong, subs, slaves, or pets with a full-time Dom or Domme, and many aren’t even sexually involved with their Master or Mistress.
My desire for domination, although mainly sexual, also extends to ownership, being an object, being taken care of. Dating my best friend, aka my first Dom, was the first time I was forced to contend with the desire to be obedient, to be sexually controlled, and to be a ‘good’ feminist.
“Make sure that your desire to dominate isn't coming from an insecure, misogynistic perspective or with harmful and abusive intentions.”
When my boyfriend and I decided to get into a BDSM relationship we spent a lot of time going back and forth about what we both desired to get out of the relationship whilst also uncovering and discussing why this was what we wanted.
My entrance into this world was not at all what I expected. While the media shows a string of ropes, chains, whips, and a lot more from an extreme lens. My boyfriend showed me the kind, gentle and nurturing side that I had never even dared to imagine. He often reminds me that the role of a Dom is to protect the Sub and the Dom takes on the responsibility that comes with that. A good Dom must always want the best for their sub and must act accordingly and there is no space for misogyny in that kind of exchange.
When I ask people if it’s okay for a woman to be dominant, many people are quick to say yes. “Men can be submissive too,” is a very feminist thing to say. When asked the inverse on whether it’s okay for a man to be dominant we enter very murky waters.
To understand, we need to understand that we live in a patriarchal society. Being a feminist is all about fighting the stereotypes, boxes, and oppressions that have been forced on us because of our gender.
What happens then when you fit the stereotype? Choice Feminism?
“Choice feminism is the belief that the individual choices of a woman are inherently feminist.”
An article on Choice Feminism details some of my own battle with being a submissive and a feminist and the complexities and nuances that exist within choice feminism.
In the piece, Vicki Li states, “Choice feminism’s fatal flaw lies within its name: the assumption that choice is a liberty that everyone has.”
The sad and often underreported truth is that a lot of people are introduced to BDSM in an abusive and often traumatic fashion. Many men believe that BDSM is a simple extension of their ‘natural standing’ as men in society. Through this, they use BDSM as a shield and excuse to be abusive.
An example of how problematic this is can be seen through mainstream media in depictions of BDSM in movies like Fifty Shades Of Grey. All of this is a misrepresentation of what BDSM is but it also is a reality that many women face.
The guise of choice within this type of media is not really a choice at all. Manipulation and coercion are not BDSM. When interacting with and analyzing our own desire to dominate whether as male or female and even within queer relationships (as some queer relationships still hold onto hetero-normative stereotypes and gender roles), it’s important to ask yourself whether your desire to dominate comes from a place of misogyny.
For your own safety as a sub; when you are looking for a Dom or Domme, it's important to first check whether or not they are secure in their domination and are not using this as simply a tool to to fill insecurities, as this is dangerous for all parties involved, especially the sub.
This is the main reason I often feel guilty and cautious about my own submission. I am privileged to have found a partner who I not only know but can trust to put my safety into consideration in all situations, but I am also privileged to make the choice. Yet being a switch I am also in the unique position to talk about and showcase that being a Dom is a huge responsibility and we must never forget that. Individual choices are not made in a vacuum and it's important not to fall into the trap of ’patriarchy disguised as a choice.’
It is hard to find the line between finding a sub who is seeking submission because of pleasure and a sub seeking submission because they believe this is their rightful role in life and vice-versa based on their gender and how they were raised. It is also an ongoing battle to fight and stop the amount of abuse and death that is the result of this; which is something we as feminists must be able to discuss and contend with when discussing the role of pleasure in our lives, especially pleasure that involves the exchange and imbalances of power.
The submissive needs to have the autonomy to be able to set the boundaries and say no. Consent is everything and submission should be empowering.
Before anything happens, within any relationship for that matter, boundaries need to be set. Within BDSM this is even more important as certain actions and even words or phrases can be triggering. This is why at the core of BDSM there is consent.
Submission and Domination are a negotiation between equal partners and all partner’s boundaries should be respected.
As my Dom would say, “domination only exists within boundaries set by the submissive, anything outside of those boundaries is abuse.”
The purpose of this checklist is to create an open environment to discuss everything in an open and safe environment. I had known my partner for seven years and working through this still helped us enter into a safe and consensual space whilst learning each other's fantasies, boundaries and limitations.
For the first time I was given the power to say “yes, I like that”, “no, I don't like that”, “that is a boundary for me”, “we can never do that”, or simply, ”I'm willing to try that and once I've tried it, I'm free to decide to stop and never do it again”. During any act or play, I can say the safe word and everything stops. It doesn't matter if it's in the middle of sex or at the beginning. Everything stops and this is a lesson in consent that everyone needs to learn.
Boundaries do not have to be sexual, they can even be mental or emotional. Part of my boundaries involves doing chores; domestic work being paid work is very important to me. While we can’t afford full-time help (we are both 25, living in Zimbabwe) sharing all house chores 50/50 and ensuring financial independence within the relationship was very important to me.
Boundaries can also be linked to trauma. One of my other boundaries involves shouting. Through trauma as a child, and living with Borderline Personality Disorder; shouting or the simple act of raising one's voice leaves me feeling frayed. My partner always makes an effort to make sure that even emotionally I am well taken care of and he never raises his voice with me, regardless of the fact that I often struggle to do the same.
I also have to be conscious of his mental and emotional boundaries which include; structure, order and needing space and silence to process certain situations. This hasn't always been easy as my needy and emotional nature often requires the opposite. Yet we both continue to not only openly discuss when we are unhappy but praise and acknowledge the little things that we do enjoy and like as well.
If you notice the trend here, BDSM involves a lot of communication. A lot of honesty and openness extends to all parts of self.
Another beautiful practice within BDSM is ‘aftercare.’ An action I believe we all need to adopt in all relationships; aftercare is the practice of nurturing and comforting your partner after a sex or play scene. Although aftercare is usually focused on the Submissive to combat what is known as a sub drop; (the sadness a submissive partner may feel once endorphins crash and adrenaline floods their body after a powerful scene) it can also be performed for the Dom. The point is to take care of and ensure the well-being of everyone involved mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Aftercare allows for space to bond, talk, and ultimately take care of your partner’s needs beyond being sexual. This in itself is allows both partners to continue to feel seen and loved beyond just the act of sex and it’s another important reminder to take care of the human inside and look beyond the body and the pleasure that you give or receive to continue to have more pleasurable experiences.
Fantasies do not always equal reality.
The most feminist part of BDSM has been the ability to be free from pressure. I’m neither bound nor tied down to any fantasy or reality but I have the freedom to seek out pleasure in the forms in which I find safe, and not traumatizing for me. There is no one size fits all solution for everyone and just how I find myself fully submissive one day and dominant the next and constantly somewhere in the middle you are free to experiment and even realize that although some experiences felt good in your head, you just don’t feel the same once you’re doing it and then you can say no and stop it. It is never too late to say stop and change your mind during any encounter or experience. The power is in your hands.
Being a sub has taught me how to be more assertive, more vocal about my needs and my limits. My dom has taught me how to center myself and speak out about what I believe in and not be afraid to stand up for myself, regardless of who I am speaking to. He has also taught me to not be afraid of my own potential and to consistently push my limits be it in my career or through my work.
Entering this relationship I was nervous about how much of myself I would have to give up yet instead I have been constantly discovering who I am and loving every inch of that person through trusting that my partner only has the best intentions at heart when it comes to my wellbeing. Mentally, emotionally, physically and sexually.
I am still discovering my truth but for now, I am happy and growing as a feminist, pansexual, polyamorous, switch still contending with my submissive nature.
Amanda Tayte-Tait aka Amanda Marufu (she/her) is a Feminist, Tech- Entrepreneur, TV Producer, Blogger & Author of At What Age Does My Body Belong To Me. Co-Founder and CEO of Award Winning Media Company Visual Sensation & Feminist Content Creation Platform It’s A Feminist Thing. She is dedicated to using media and tech to spread awareness and change lives.