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The Fantasy of Acceptable 'Non-Consent': Why the Female Sexual Submissive Scares Us (and Why She Shouldn't)

There is a guilt and shame among women who have fantasies of their own violation and express a desire to be demeaned.

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A dom/sub dynamic doesn't appear to promote equality, but for most serious practitioners, the trust and respect that exist in power exchange actually transcend a mainstream "woman as object" or rape mentality. For BDSM to exist safely, it has to be founded on a constant proclamation of enthusiastic consent, which mainstream sexuality has systematically dismantled.

This, of course, doesn't mean that BDSM culture is without blame or responsibility. Despite the obvious fact that domination and submission (and everything that comes with them) are in the realm of elaborate fantasy, it is interesting to examine how those lifestyle choices and depictions (both mainstream and countercultural) influence an overall rape culture that seeks to demean and demoralize woman. While consensual, informed BDSM is contrary to rape culture, more mainstream (or nonfetish) pornography that even vaguely simulates rape (of the "take it, bitch" and "you know you like it" variety) is quite the opposite. When those desires specific to BDSM are appropriated, watered down and corrupted, the complex rules that the counterculture is founded on are completely disposed of.

Herein lies the problem -- with the advent and proliferation of Internet pornography, the fantasy of rape, torture and bondage becomes an issue of access. No longer reserved for an informed, invested viewer who carefully sought it out after a trip to a fetish bookstore, BDSM is represented in every porn portal on the Internet. The average computer user can have instant access to a full catalog of BDSM practices, ranging from light, soft-core spanking to hard-core torture, in a matter of seconds. This kind of constant, unrestrained availability trains viewers who don't have a BDSM cultural awareness, investment or education to believe that what women want is to be coerced and, in some cases, forced into acts they don't consent to. Over the years, various interpretations of the genre have made it into straight porn, without any suggestion of artifice -- women on leashes, in handcuffs, gagged, tied up and told to "like it" are all commonplace imagery in contemporary pornography.

While the serious BDSM practitioner thrives on that artifice, the average young, male, heterosexual porn audience member begins to believe that forcing women into sex acts is the norm -- the imagery's constant, instant availability makes rape and sex one and the same for the mainstream viewer. Couple that private home viewing to get off with the proliferation of graphic crime shows on prime-time television and torture porn masquerading as "psychological thrillers" in theaters, and our cultural imagery screams that "women as sexual victims" is an acceptable reality. For someone who is raised, and reaches sexual maturity, in this environment, the idea of forcing a woman into a sex act seems, although logically "wrong," completely commonplace and possibly quite sexy.

The appropriation of BDSM imagery is problematic because while community members understand that it is important to be sensitive to the needs, boundaries and rules of players in order for a scene to function fairly and enjoyably, mainstream porn is primarily about getting off as quickly as possible. Add to that a disgraceful lack of sexual education (both in safety and in pleasure) across the country and a general belief perpetuated by the media that women are sex objects to be consumed, and you have a rape culture that started by borrowing from BDSM's images without reading its rules.

This reality raises some interesting questions for safe, sane and consensual BDSM practitioners. If, as someone who identifies as a sexual submissive, you like to fantasize about being raped, are you now complicit in this pervasive rape culture? Are you not only complicit, but also key in perpetuating the acceptability of violence, regardless of how private and personal your desire is? From another perspective -- are you actually a victim? Is your fantasy merely a product of a culture that coerces you into believing that kind of violence is acceptable or even desirable?