On Being a Feminist Writing Dirty Kinky Porn
So, I write porn. Most of my porn is kinky. Most of my kinky porn is female-submissive. And most of my female-submissive kinky porn is opposite-sex, male-dominated. I’ve just come out with a collection of my smut — excuse me, erotic fiction — “Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More” (available as an ebook on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords; audiobook and paperback coming soon). And while the book has lesbian kink, bisexual kink, gay male kink, fem-dom/ male-sub kink, unicorn-dom/ rainbow-sub kink, and even some non-kink, it’s true that women being spanked, beaten, controlled, used, objectified, humiliated, punished, and generally overpowered by men in dreadful dreadful ways is a dominating theme. (I know. Terrible pun.)
Also, I’m a feminist. An ardent one at that.
So what’s that about? And how do I reconcile it? Is there even anything to reconcile?
I know that when 50 Shades of Gray went viral, pundits from all over the pundit-sphere were racking their brains trying to figure out why all these ladies were so hot to read kinky porn about a woman getting sexually pushed around. I’ve written my own convoluted analysis: not about 50 Shades per se, I haven’t read it and probably won’t, but about the general trend of female-penned, female-submissive porn. But the more I think about this question, the more I think that we may be overthinking it.
I think the question may not be, “Why do women want to fantasize about being submissive?” I think the question may be, “Why do people want to fantasize about being submissive?”
People fantasize about what we don’t have. Sexually and otherwise. If our lives are predictable, we fantasize about adventure; if our lives are overwhelmed, we fantasize about peace. If we stay in one place all the time, we fantasize about world travel; if we’re on the road all the time, we fantasize about curling up in a fetal position and staying in one place for a month. If feel powerless, we fantasize about power… and if we have too much responsibility, we fantasize about letting go.
And as feminism slowly and painfully grinds forward, and as women get more power, more agency, more responsibility, we’re going to fantasize more about being overpowered, controlled, and helpless.
And as women get more comfortable being porn consumers, we’re going to be more comfortable buying porn that caters to these fantasies.
Now, when it comes to men, people seem to get this. To the degree that they get anything at all about kink, that is. The cliché of the rich and powerful business executive paying a high-priced dominatrix to tie him up and torment him… well, it’s a cliché. A trope, even. It’s titillating, it’s outré, it’s even shocking — but it’s not really surprising. To the degree that people understand and accept kink at all, they understand that a powerful person who makes decisions all day might want a respite from that, might want to hand over the reins and let someone else be the decider. In pure fantasy, or in a temporary acting-out of fantasy.
But when it comes to the womenfolk, for some reason this is a lot more baffling. So I have to wonder: When people scratch their heads in bafflement over women’s kinky sexual desires, how much of that bafflement is just over women’s sexual desires at all?
Which brings me back to the feminism.
Sure, there’s a part of me that does feel… not guilty, not uncomfortable even, but concerned, about whether it contributes to sexism to write dirty kinky fantasies where men control and overpower and sexually dominate women. When I was pulling together “Bending,” I posted a thinking-out-loud piece on my blog, asking my readers for feedback on how to publish kinky porn — especially male-dom/ female-sub kinky porn, with loads of fantasies about borderline consent and outright non-consent — without feeding into rape culture. (A post on which I got some useful ideas, btw.)
But when I started looking over the stories I was putting into “Bending,” I noticed a pattern. In almost all the stories, a woman is the instigator of the action. In almost all the stories, a woman is the one who initially has the sexual desire… and a women is the one who engineers the satisfaction of that desire. There are a few fantasies where a woman is a true “victim” of the bad bad things being done to her — that’s a hot fantasy, and I’m fine with that — but they’re in the minority. Most of these stories start with a woman thinking about what she wants, and communicating what she wants — verbally or otherwise — and taking action to make what she wants happen. And most of the stories are told from a woman’s point of view. It’s her experiences you’re reading about: her feelings, her desires, her thoughts, her sensations, how this sex fits into her life, how this sex is going to change her life. In most of these stories, women aren’t the objects of desire — they’re the subjects.
Even the female-submissive ones.
Especially the female-submissive ones.
So ultimately, as a feminist, I am fine with this. In fact, I am much more than fine. I am actively positive.
I think that women declaring our sexual agency is a feminist act. I think that women saying out loud what kinds of sex we like, and what kinds of sex we like to fantasize about, is a feminist act. I think that women saying out loud that we like sex at all is a feminist act. And I think that women saying out loud that we like a particular variety of sex that’s widely seen as sick at best and immoral at worst… that is definitely a feminist act.
It’s not as if coming out about being kinky, or even having kinky fantasies, is totally accepted and mainstream. Sure, it’s slightly more so now since 50 Shades came out. But still. Whenever I hear this line about how female masochism is just giving our sexist culture what it wants from women, I always want to ask, “What on earth makes you think that society is applauding women for being sexual masochists? What planet are you living on? And can I live there, please?” Coming out about having kinky desires is still an act of defiance. And women coming out about having sexual desires at all is still an act of resistance.
I agree that a huge amount of porn is unbelievably sexist. Absolutely. No argument. But I’ve never thought that the answer to this was to continue demonizing porn and shaming the people who enjoy it. I’ve always thought that the answer to this was to demand better porn.
I am demanding better porn. I am demanding porn that isn’t just an inventory of body parts and physical acts. I am demanding porn that conveys the emotions of sex, the sensations, the meaning. I am demanding porn that gets you inside the characters: porn that gets you feeling what they’re feeling, thinking what they’re thinking, wanting what they’re wanting. I am demanding porn with imagination, porn that gives me new ideas. I am demanding porn that depicts sexual varieties I could never imagine enjoying… and that shows me exactly why they’re exciting. I am demanding porn that makes me feel, really feel, what this sex feels like. I am demanding porn with a plot that doesn’t disrupt the sex: porn that isn’t just “plot, sex, plot, sex,” porn where the sex is woven into the story, and the story is woven into the sex, just as if sex were an organic part of life or something. I am demanding porn that treats sex with respect, that treats sex like it matters. I am demanding porn that’s sexually complex, emotionally complex, morally complex. I am demanding porn that the creators give a damn about. I am demanding porn that presents women as subjects of the story, and that gives a damn about what they want.
And I hope that I’m providing it.