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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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Alternatively, is your desire (however bastardized and appropriated) still your own -- your fantasy of "nonconsent" yours to choose and act out in a consenting environment? A personal choice when feminist ideology emphasizes choice above all else?

And finally, and perhaps most important, with all of its limitations, safe words, time limits and explicitly negotiated understandings of what is allowed -- is the consensual SM relationship actually the ultimate in trust and collaborative "performance," its rules and artifice the very antithesis of rape?

Paradoxically, sexual submission and rape fantasy can only be acceptable in a culture that doesn't condone them. On a simplistic level, a fetish is only a fetish when it falls outside the realm of the real, and, as I mentioned, the reason why some feminists fear or loathe the BDSM scene is that it is all too familiar. When a woman is subjected to (or enjoying, depending on who is viewing and participating) torture, humiliation and pain, many feminists see the 6 o'clock news, not a pleasurable fantasy, regardless of context. Even someone who identifies as a sexual submissive, someone like me, can understand why it's difficult to view these scenes objectively. Many fantasies are taboo for precisely that reason -- it's close to impossible to step beyond the notion that a man interested in domination is akin to a rapist, or that if a woman submits she is a helpless victim of rape culture. But consenting BDSM practitioners would argue that their community at large responsibly enacts desires without harm, celebrating female desire and (as is so fundamental in dismantling rape culture) making (her) pleasure central.

As a community, feminists need to truly examine whether or not it's condescending to say to a woman who chooses the fantasy of rape that she is a victim of a culture that seeks to demean, humiliate and violate women, whether or not it's acceptable to accuse her of being misguided, misinformed or even mentally ill.

The reality is that when two people consent to fabricate a scene of nonconsent in the privacy of their own erotic lives, they are not consenting to perpetuate the violation of women everywhere. The true problem lies in mainstream pornography's appropriation of fetish tropes -- while BDSM practitioners are generally serious about and invested in the ideological beliefs behind their lifestyle choices, the average mainstream porn user doesn't usually take the time to understand the finer points of dominance and submission (or consent and safety) before he casually witnesses a violation scene in a mainstream pornographic film or image.

While early black-and-white fantasy films of Bettie Page being kidnapped and tied up by a group of insatiable femmes are generally viewed as light, harmless, erotic fun, that kind of imagery, when injected into mainstream pornography (and even Hollywood), can have epic cultural ramifications. Sadly, gratuitous depictions of violence against women on the big screen have effectively taken the taboo-play element out of fetish imagery. Bombarded with an onslaught of violent images in which a woman is the victim, viewers fail to see where fantasy and fetish end and reality begins.

BDSM pornography is so excruciatingly aware of its own ability to perpetuate the idea that women yearn to be violated that it actually fights against that myth. At the end of almost every authentic BDSM photo set, you'll see a single appended photo of the participants, smiling and happy, assuring us that what we've seen is theater acted out by consenting adults, proving that fetish porn often exists as a careful, aware construct that constantly references itself as such.