Kinky feminist: A gender query

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Getting kinky with men, I’ve found, is not a very different experience from getting kinky with women or non-binary people, in terms of the actual sex. Sure, messing around with a penis is not the same as messing around with a vagina, and if you don’t change your technique depending on what’s down there you might end up in some sticky situations. But when it comes to the dynamics, if you’ve established that one person is going to be dominant, then gender and genitalia don’t make all that much of a difference. A woman or non-binary person can just as easily get me into a submissive headspace as a man.

For me, what really makes engaging in kink with men different is the before and the after. The part where I tell him what I want, what I’m prepared to do, and what my limits are, and the part where I look at him once it’s over and figure out whether or not I’ve made a huge mistake. Not because I haven’t enjoyed it or it wasn’t fun, but because I can tell that I’ve just helped him reach a very unsavoury conclusion. That is, that women have a place in society, and that place is at a man’s feet. Perfectly illustrated and ‘proven’ by me having contentedly occupied that exact space for the last hour. 

Part of this is my fault. I have a habit of, once realising that someone is kinky, immediately letting them have at it — which, as can only be expected, often leads to some regret. Many things that are hot in the moment become decidedly less so if you find out the person slapping you round the face or forcing you to your knees genuinely thinks that this is how you deserve to be treated. Dirty talk especially becomes something to cringe at, and for reasons unrelated to the fact that, well — it’s dirty talk. I can dig being called a whore when I’m being fucked, but not by someone who uses that kind of language habitually in other contexts. A day-to-day use of derogatory and sexist terms is far more likely to make me despise a person than want to jump into bed with them.

Of course, this applies to vanilla sex, too — which is one of the justifications I give myself when I let someone dominate me before I’ve completely determined whether or not they’re a secret misogynist. While we exist in a patriarchal society, a woman sleeping with a man is always, however subtly, going to raise questions about gender politics. But it’s difficult to pretend that the dynamics resultant of practicing BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) are not more likely to be problematic. Or that the aftermath of practicing BDSM with the wrong kind of person can be more harrowing than a vanilla session with someone you heard call their ex a slag. 

Personally, I don’t find it easy to examine my sex life in an abstract way — one reason I’m writing this column is because I spend too much time wondering what my kinks say about me ‘as a person’. So if someone hits me or embarrasses me during sex but does a terrible job of aftercare, it’s likely that the way I was treated will play on my mind for a long while — no matter how much I wanted it at the time. And someone who is sexist is never going to be good at the kind of reassurance I need. They will never be able to fully convince me that the things they said and did were for our joint gratification, rather than because they truly meant it in a way I did not consent to.

It is for these reasons that, in general, I am more comfortable exploring kink with women or non-binary people. Having sex with another woman is like being given a blank canvas: we can map our kinks onto it without too much difficulty or controversy. With a man, that canvas is pretty much full already. If he wants to treat me like he owns me then we have to find a way to pencil it in between sketches of underage female porn stars and women being sold into sexual slavery.

But, this is not an impossible task, nor one that isn’t worth the effort. The canvas definitely has room, and as a kinky bisexual I am hellbent on making myself and my partner-of-the-moment fit — so long as everyone involved acknowledges the picture that is already there.

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