But your slut shaming tells me more about you and the culture you exist in than you could ever imagine!
Before today I hadn’t directly experienced slut shaming. I’ve encountered it through traditional and social media (I doubt there is a woman who hasn’t), but to have a man explicitly shame my sexuality wasn’t something I’d had to process before today.
This man not only chose to outwardly reject my position and shame me for it but he mansplain me into tomorrow. I’m not going to lie, it was confronting to read. I’ve received abusive messages which have been quite confronting, but this was something else. I’m not even sure I can adequately describe it. One of the things we know is that we don’t passively engage with our online spaces; they can be just as real as our face to face experiences. We are often in a very relaxed mental state – In bed drinking coffee, lazy Sunday morning and we aren’t physiologically prepared for a confrontation; so it can become quite overwhelming. As this was for me.
His words were not threatening, quite laughable actually. Chest thumping ‘me dom, you sub’ quintessential kinky mansplaining. It’s not as if I hadn’t read it (or heard it) before, you can’t get far on Fetlife without meeting it. But this time it was a direct attack on me and mine. I’m quite confident in my sexuality, it took me a long time and a lot of hard work to get to a space where I can own my self as a sexual being without hesitation or the need to defend it.
But I didn’t realise there was this point of vulnerability, this fragile edge to me self. Until today.
I don’t usually respond to these people. I usually don’t extend any more emotional or mental energy than what it takes to delete and block. It’s one of the consequences of being a female bodied human being who engages with and puts forward positions and opinions online. But today I had this, what I can only describe as niggling feeling that just wouldn’t go away. I’d walked away from the computer, made the decision not to engage (my positive coping strategies) and yet I couldn’t remove myself from this. Why?
So I sat down and got thinking.
And boy, was I surprised where that took me!
I began to question why something that is presented as alternative or ‘other’ is founded in this absolute appropriation of heteronormative femininity. How can “submissive” be queered if the essence of the identity is a performative, constructed armour worn to conform to a culturally constructed and prescribed set of normative behaviours? I began wondering what on earth motivates a man (a total stranger) to reject outright the proposition that centring the physical sexual pleasure from all of this is legitimate. And what made him think he has the right to demand justification and apology.
And that’s when I realised this was nothing more than slut shaming!
This man, so encased in heteronormative assumptions about female sexuality, so finite in his assumptions about acceptable and punishable female/feminie sexuality, believes he has the right to govern my sexual choices and expressions.
I get overwhelming sexual pleasure out of submitting. Dominance for me is first and foremost a kink. Bossy pants make my ladybits all hot and tingly and my orgasm wave after wave of explosive pleasure. I own this, unapologetically. I love my body and am committed to ensuring that I keep it functioning in a way that works for me and my sexual partner. I am his slave, but a slave who is a sexual being.
Since I began exploring this side of my sexuality I’ve encountered so many self and culturally imposed road blocks. I grew up being constantly conditioned that “good girls” should never expect attention, never expect too much of a man, should submit passively to her biological fate and to never ever feel sexual desire. I can’t remember how many times I’d encountered the idea of a woman’s “lot” and lectured about subjugating pleasure for permanence. Then there is this ever existing tension between owning my autonomy and serving the greater good of women. The toing and froing between embracing choice and dismantling the oppressive patriarchal structures that police every move I make; including the ones in my bedroom.
I read a quote once (I have a feeling it could have been a Cosmo or Cleo article) that said “there is a fine line between sexy and slutty”. I can’t tell you what came next, I think it was another one of their how to please a man pieces, but this one line has stuck with me for years. This idea that there is obvious permitted relationship between women and sex; it’s so normalised and idolised (dare I say it, even a fetishised) line we women walk just as easy as we breath. It’s innate, maybe biological, and always present. It is always our fault when we cross the line and when we do we must accept punishment – slut shamming.
Dominance and submission are characterised by these oversimplified caricatures, which are often grotesque, stereotypical, common and harmful! Sure, we may laugh off ‘one true wayism”, we snark it and ridicule the ideas. But that’s just not enough anymore! We need to stand up and start challenging them, the language and the assumptions! – I mean isn’t this what feminism is all about?
But first we need to better understand where they come from.
The dominant paradigm of dominance (male) and submission (female) is sold to us as the legitimate representation. It’s ascribes performative ethics to the roles – dominant = active, submissive = passive. Please don’t dictionary definition me! Using the dictionary to present and argument is immature, it rejects the nuance and complexity of humanness. I’m not interested in definition, I’m interested in the way one experiences themselves as a submissive women.
I’m going to make some big claims here, but here goes.
Five common assumption caused by this active/passive dichotomy and why they are grotesque and harmful:
- It is an absolute double standard!
When a dominant steps out of the assumptions of heteronormative masculinity he is hero-worshiped! If he brings in emotions, if he is reactive and empathetically responsive to his partner or if he conceded weakness then he is respected. When I as a submissive step outside of the assumptions of heteronormative femininity I am judged and compelled to apologies! If I am displaying desire as opposed to being desirable I am shamed.
- It rejects women’s creative power and denigrates our sexual labour!
When one is cast as passive she is without real and present personhood. She is an object within her own sexuality rather than an autonomous being who is eligible for recompense for the physical and emotional labour she exerts
- She must be chaste.
To be chaste is not simply to be without sex. It is the rejection of any form of sexual nature and intention. To be passive is to be without intention and meaning. Why do have to be meaningless to be submissive?
Further it positions my sexuality as absolutely symmetrical with his; allowing no deviation. It positions his sexuality – needs and performance as the image that I need to be reactively mirroring if I want my sexuality legitimised.
- It rejects a “whole body” approach to sexuality.
When I am compelled to accept that the mental is of more importance that the physical I am being asked to accept a version of me that limits, if not destroys, the intimate and social essence and expression of my self as a sexual being and instead, conform to a prescribed set of normative behaviours. You cannot disconnect the mind from the body and the emotional fulfilment I get from submission is satisfying. But it does not come at the expense of the physical pleasure I receive.
- The notion of a coherent submissive self rejects the fabrication of any identification of submissive woman that exists within an in-between space, outside of heteronormative assumptions.
Which brings me back to me question: How can “submissive” be queered if the essence of the identity is a performative, constructed armour worn to conform to a culturally constructed and prescribed set of normative behaviours?
When my behaviours and the core of my identity as a submissive woman are not functionally feminine must I subjugate myself to the approved cultural and linguistic codes? Present myself not as a creation of desires, physiological capacities and emotional needs but as an imitation of harmful and dominant heteronormative norms?
We cannot create identity without the culture around us. There is a deep interrelationship between the self and culture. But we must reject this oversimplified and externally ratified cultural caricature and codification of our experiences as submissive women if we are to ever be free to express ourselves as sexual beings when we do not toe this fine line between sexy and slut.
So you can slut shame me all you like – it’s not going to challenge or change anything that I know about myself. But it will cement my focus on rebelling against the status quo and my feminism every time you do.