Kink in exile

Notes from a kinky nomad

Intentional inequality

Next week I’m going to Transcending Boundaries, “an annual community conference to celebrate the diversity of gender, sex, sexuality and relationships.”  I’m looking over the workshop schedule and find a panel on The Feminist Submissive:

Internal and societal conflicts. How does one reconcile the desire to submit with feminist ideals? How can a relationship based on inequality stand up to modern egalitarian models? How can we, as submissive women, reconcile our desire for submission with our awareness of the hard-won battles and ongoing struggle of feminism? How too, does a male Dominant manage his own conflicts and dominate without guilt? In this talk we plan to discuss how the act of submission can be an expression of choice and an example of “enthusiastic consent” that has been made possible by feminism. The role of D/s in dismantling rape culture will be touched upon, as well as the importance of intentionality and negotiation in developing relationship dynamics. We will discuss what power exchange really means in a relationship and how a submissive holds power within the exchange, how D/s relationships compare to traditional and progressive relationships, and why “different” does not have to mean “unequal” in any relationship.

Ok, “how can a relationship based on inequality stand up to modern egalitarian models?” is a really interesting question, and I remember having conversations about the idea of mixing feminism and submissiveness 5,7, 10 years ago and they were valuable to me, so I’m sure this conversation is still valuable to people for whom it is new.  However, I’m surprised at how limited this conversation is…
How to build intentional inequality is a conversation I see related to female submissive and feminism all the time; where is the conversation around building strategic, long-term, non-porn-inspired F/m relationships?  And why is this not a feminist issue?  Why, when trained gender norms make it that much harder for me and my submissive partner to actually shift the balance of housework (towards them) and the balance of financial decision-making (towards me) are we not having this conversation?

What are some challenges of creating F/m relationships?  How do you step past the gender norms you were raised with, which society maybe still expects?  For male partners, how does taking a submissive role in the home impact relationships with male friends; do you talk about it?  Are you questioned about it?  What models do you have for the kinds of relationships you’re building?  (My model is 1950’s Father Knows Best types stuff with the genders reversed.)  For female partners, How do you build confidence around taking control in your home?  Is there a conflict between femininity and control?  How do you build intentionally power-imbalanced relationships that fit into daily reality with attention to outside pressure?

Written by kinkinexile

October 21, 2012 at 10:14 am

Posted in advice, headspace

7 Responses

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  1. I propose we both attend that session and raise these questions. I would enjoy forcing the conversation to include more than what sounds like “a conversation I see related to female submissive and feminism all the time.” Because I’m really not okay with that being the only time I see this conversation happen and I would enjoy fucking some of that shit up.

    Anyone interested in making sure this happens with me?

    maymay

    October 21, 2012 at 11:38 am

    • You’ve known me how long? I’m not the fuck shit up sort, I’m the lets make what we want to see and create alternative choice sort. Is it too late to propose a discussion to the organizers? If so, how about focusing energy on a hallway track. I want to see something along the lines of:

      Queering relationship gender norms
      From stay-at-home dads to intentionally created power imbalances, overcoming prescribed gender norms and creating an a la cart relationship dynamic can be challenging. Lets talk about the challenges and wins of creating female lead relationships in a country where married women still clock approximately 3 times more hours in household work than do married men.

      How does intentional power imbalance play with feminist and contemporary notions of relationship equality? How do prescribed gender norms make it ever more difficult for dominant women and submissive men to build their preferred power dynamic? How is labor and household authority distributed in non-gender-normative households and how can we all gain awareness of the models we’ve been given and create impactful changes to adapt those to our own relationships?

      kinkinexile

      October 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      • I’m the “let’s do both” sort, and since too few people seem willing to be the ones to fuck shit up, I’m going to focus on that and support everyone else do the other things as I can. I would LOVE to help you do a hallway session of the sort you described, it sounds fantastic! I think it would be great to do the hallway session you describe at 17:30, right after this questionable session ends.

        And also, for the record, I wasn’t asking you, personally, if you wanted to hold Coyote Too and Zhiva Zhenska session’s metaphorical feet to the fire, I was asking the Internet.

        maymay

        October 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      • Hi!

        Glad to see that our session is sparking interest. Thanks, too, to maymay for bringing my attention to this post.

        I think that the questions you raise are really important. Coyote Too and I have certainly been talking about them a lot ourselves in the process of preparing for our session. Our intention on focusing on female submission comes from a couple of things. 1) our own conversations about our dynamic and feminism, especially in the early part of our relationship, and 2) the recent Fifty Shades phenomenon and some troubling conversations that have emerged as a result (think: Katie Roiphe). We feel that a chance to talk about the relationship between submission and feminism is especially important to people who are newer to the conversation.

        You are absolutely right that our abstract includes only a very particular kind of sexuality and gender dynamics. This is because we wanted to make sure that we were speaking from our own experience, rather than making assumptions about other people’s lives and we wanted to keep the session focused. I think you’re very right that what we sacrificed in exchange was the inclusion of issues of intersectionality in our abstract.

        For what it’s worth, though not included in the description, we are planning on including discussion of F/m relationships in a feminist framework. We ourselves identify as switches and have been in a primarily F/m dynamic in recent months. Being aware of our own identities and experiences, we do want to have a broader conversation that includes other identities and experiences. Our intention is to open up most of the session to discussion and we do hope to have an inclusive conversation.

        I hope that our attempt to focus the description doesn’t limit the discussion. We’re hoping for a great deal of conversation, and I sincerely hope you’ll come and raise important points and questions that broaden the scope of the session!

        Let me know if you have other questions, comments, or concerns: @zhivazhenska

        Zhiva Zhenska

        October 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm

  2. maymay

    October 21, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    • Hmm, back to my priorities list with me! I wanted to have an off-site date with Ironrose on Sat afternoon, but maybe. I’ll see is she cares to join the discussion and what sessions she was thinking of going to.

      I will say that I’m not really interested in going to the feminist submissive session as it’s not really applicable to where I’m at in my life, so I’d prefer to do this as an unrelated item.

      kinkinexile

      October 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm

  3. Hi Zhiva, and thanks for chiming in!

    “We feel that a chance to talk about the relationship between submission and feminism is especially important to people who are newer to the conversation.”

    Absolutely, and as I mentioned in my original post, I think this is a valuable conversation for those who are new to it, and it was valuable for me…10 years ago. I actually would like to see how, if at all, the conversation has evolved over the last decade, but I’m also aware of the fact that this is a perspective that is very frequently represented in this type of venue, while other role and gender dynamics are not. Certainly this is a valuable conversation, but I would like to see more diverse discourse in addition to, not in place of, this.

    “For what it’s worth, though not included in the description, we are planning on including discussion of F/m relationships in a feminist framework.”

    The intended inclusion of other dynamics is nice, but people select workshops to attend based on the description. By the time you get in a room with your audience for the workshop you outlined, you are looking at your target demographic of politically aware submissive women and maybe a handful of politically aware dominant men. As I mentioned to Maymay above (based on just the description from the TCB website) “I’m not really interested in going to the feminist submissive session as it’s not really applicable to where I’m at in my life.” This isn’t because I think the talk won’t be interesting, but it was described as less applicable to me than other things I could attend during that slot.

    In other words, if this more diverse discussion isn’t in the outline, participants have no way to opt into it. More importantly, above and beyond this workshop is that we routinely see support for submissive women in a way that we don’t see for dominant women or submissive men – and you can’t be what you don’t see.

    There is nothing wrong with this workshop or any of a number of other resources tackling female submission, but the simultaneous lack of resources addressing female dominance outside of the realm of pornography is disheartening. Frankly, that absence is a disservice to the diversity of women’s sexual and intimate desires.

    I would love to chat with you further about this sort of intentional relationship creation, especially as it sounds like you might have some tips for creating F/m structures? Perhaps we can take over one of the Continuing Discussions slots to carry on this conversation?

    kinkinexile

    October 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm


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