Fucking Like A Feminist 

Everyone is entitled to a sexual evolution 


As a teenager I was incredibly sexually rambunctious. If I wasn’t on top, which was rare, I was clawing the man’s shoulders, as if attempting to climb back up. In college, I went through a phase where I hunted virgins—the ultimate domination. Deflowering a college boy was like playing with silly putty. They were easy, vulnerable, sometimes scared. I was all-powerful. I spent my years as an undergrad breaking hearts, flipping boys over and giving them hickies on their bare asses, even cheating when I felt an urge outside of a relationship. In my misguided mind, thinking only in terms of how far I could push myself and my partners, I was fucking like a feminist.

Yes, I fancied myself quite the feminist. Looking back, it’s almost adorable that I equated my personal sexual conquests with being a strong, independent woman. Being dominant in sex definitely fit my personality; I was as aggressive in life as I was in bed. But then something changed. More likely, it merely surfaced, previously suppressed by the notion that I was living out my feminist ideals. Because beneath that was the very real, incredibly raw desire to be fucked—to be held down, restrained, attacked, and fucked.

Equating pain and pleasure is not something people discuss often. We favor dwelling on the minutiae of communication in relationships and the size, description, and scent of genitals before we venture to talk about what kind of sex we’re having and what kind we want. Are we getting “pounded”? (I despise that descriptor.) Making love? Dressing up and using wigs, masturbating next to each other? We don’t talk about our fantasies. We don’t talk about who likes it on top and if the person we’re fucking likes to be the big or little spoon. But these details are important. Who we are in bed can be a mirror for who we are in life, or it can be a shocking opposite. Our failure to dive into these details or even acknowledge them betrays a discomfort with the most base, naked aspects of our sexuality. As I’ve learned both from my own experiences and through a sex researcher, our identity as sexual creatures can be quite an evolution, and that’s a trip we owe it to ourselves to take.

Since discovering my truer sexual desires, the process of achieving self-acceptance has been challenging. As a feminist, endorsing rough, sometimes humiliating sex seems wrong. Wanting it for myself feels worse. But when it comes to what I really want, well, I’m closest to it when I’m crawling across the floor naked, in tears, being suddenly taken from behind. There’s nothing I love more than a struggle. Rape is my worst fear—but it is also a fantasy I entertain often. These desires are not quelled so simply, though. In the midst of these particular types of sexual encounters, an inner monologue often occurs. It’s a self-inquisition: Why do I want this? And sometimes after, too, there’s a lingering concern, an intense shame, feelings of abandonment and regret.

“Women feel both interested and conflicted almost immediately,” Dr. Marianne Brandon, a sex therapist, told me on the subject of surrender in sex. Brandon works with women and couples in long-term relationships, and she is particularly interested in how the dominant/submissive dynamic in vanilla, heterosexual partnerships can help revive a couple’s sex life. But she readily acknowledges that submission can trigger a negative reaction in feminists, “because feminine surrender and vulnerability have been so abused by men in the past. And when there is no equality between the sexes, it is a very unhealthy dynamic indeed.”

This is familiar to me. What was in many ways my most sexually-fulfilling relationship to date was also the most frustrating and demeaning. My partner was so dominant and powerful I found it impossible to feel I was his equal. This was a source of great pleasure in the bedroom, which became a peaceful respite from fighting back, but in daily life I felt stifled by my lack of status in the relationship and my assigned role of trophy girlfriend. My thoughts and feelings didn’t matter. Neither did my goals or career. I was an ornamental plush toy, there to be his when he wanted me and otherwise pushed aside and neglected. How could someone respect a woman outside the bedroom who is so ready to be disrespected inside?

According to Brandon, it doesn’t always have to be this way. She is convinced that traditional dominant and submissive roles in sex can actually increase intimacy in a couple because the dynamic is so dependent on trust. “This is not about women being powerless,” she says. “This is a woman choosing to experience more of herself and allowing herself and her partner to go deeper sexually in the context of a mutually respectful, truly equal relationship.” It was the mutual respect and equality bits that were clearly absent in my last, incredibly unhappy relationship. But also, it’s essential that this sort of play is decided upon and communicated, rather than falling into place as an exacerbated echo of the unhealthy relationship.

A relationship relying on sex to mitigate other issues is clearly in danger. This particular boyfriend liked to use sex as a means to resolution, but it was more like settling a score; and since I played the submissive role, it felt like I was always on the losing end. Some of my most vivid sexual memories from that time are the culmination of violent fights. Enjoying the sexual aspects of these encounters left me disgusted with myself, knowing my pleasure came mostly from twisted, destructive behavior. The pleasure didn’t last long, though—the emptiness the next morning was inexplicable and crushing. The day would be spent, quite literally, picking up the pieces and nursing the wounds.

Perhaps then it is less a question of how to be respected by a partner after establishing a sexual relationship, than how to enter into one that is respectful. Not only do we not tend to discuss what kind of sex we’re having among friends, but I’d venture to say we don’t often discuss it with our lovers, either.

Unsurprisingly, those involved in BDSM relationships—because of the possibility of someone getting seriously hurt—must plan for every detail of their encounter before it happens. It’s called negotiation, and it’s a time to set boundaries and talk openly about needs. These can even be written down and made into a contract. Maybe the best-known product of a negotiation is the safe word—and it’s not a joking matter. Dominants who fail to respect the safe word can be exiled from their BDSM community. Couples also evaluate the sex after it takes place, point by point, learning what worked and what didn’t, what was enjoyed and not so much. Most of us beyond the BDSM world don’t have those conversations, but we should. We all need to stop being so meek and start fucking talking to each other.

Speaking of, I’ve since learned that plenty of people have no problem vocalizing what they want. One man I’m sleeping with loves to talk the whole way through. I’ve also met someone who is both dominant in bed and gentlemanly in life. I have been shown a lot of sexual respect and received a lot of pleasure—zero power plays. It seems our potential to come to terms with our most intrinsic sexual desires is primarily a matter of engaging with encouraging and supportive partners. In our conversation, Brandon reinforced this theory, reiterating the importance of sexual exploration taking place within an already healthy relationship. She left me with this optimistic dispatch: “It is feminists who can lead women into understanding and enjoying the evolved state of letting go as a choice. Feminists gave women permission to be strong. It’s time we give women permission to experience all aspects of their sexuality.”

And without judgement, from others, or ourselves. This isn’t a subject that can be wrapped up neatly and quieted with a perfect bow, but there is no shame in liking it hard. To fuck like a feminist means to be empowered by any variety of sexuality and desire, regardless of what position they take.