The Tricolour Sex Column: Navigating kinks

The Kinky Scholar talks about exploring kinky sex as a woman coming out of an abusive relationship

Mainstream opinions on kinks, BDSM, and rough sex are always changing.

This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.

The opinions expressed in this piece reflect only the experiences of a brown Queer Muslim cisgender woman whose upbringing included poor access to sex education and reproductive healthcare. No article, author, or publication can accurately reflect the experiences of all women. Please read with caution and kindness.

Almost a decade ago, the release of Fifty Shades of Gray seemed to mark an embrace of sexual liberation for women looking to be submissive in the bedroom. However, when the book was adapted for film in 2015, there was widespread critique over how it dangerously portrayed BDSM by leaving out the need for consent.

Every few months, mainstream opinions on kinks, BDSM, and rough sex in general seem to pivot. Sometimes, it’s the key to sexual liberation. Other times, it’s another tool for men to degrade women—which is a very heteronormative perspective, since sex doesn’t necessarily involve a man and woman, nor do women automatically have to take the role of submissive when they’re engaging in BDSM with men.

Even as resources for exploring BDSM safely and enjoyably become more accessible, the question remains as to whether you can actually consent—particularly as a woman—to participating in sex that usually requires a dominant and submissive partner.

Nothing exists in a vacuum. Just like, as a woman, I can’t be certain if I’m shaving my legs because I want to or because of societal expectations, I’m not really sure if my desire to be a submissive in the bedroom is pure, or if it exists because society rewards me for being submissive everywhere else.

For me, any kind of rough sex is further complicated by the fact that my introduction to BDSM was in my first relationship, which was physically and sexually abusive. During those encounters, there were many instances when I didn’t consent to what was being done to me, and others when I did verbally consent but only through coercion.

After that relationship, when I started having sex again, I went in a completely different direction. I wanted things to be gentle, romantic—what a lot of people would refer to as ‘vanilla.’ While engaging in that kind of intimacy was a nice change, I still had a lingering desire to get back to handcuffs and choking, which made me feel guilty.

Here I was, with a guy who genuinely loved and cared for me in the ways I needed him to, and I still wanted him to be mean to me. I was the shittiest feminist in the world.

It didn’t help that TikTok, Twitter, and every other form of social media tells women that we’re boring or unhappy if we’re not into whips and chains.

As I opened up to my partner, I started to get more comfortable expressing these thoughts, and some of the kinks I used to enjoy were re-incorporated into my sex life. This time, I wasn’t viewing being a submissive as a permanent or necessary part of sex; it was a role I felt I could go in and out of as I pleased, when the time was right, and with shared enthusiastic consent with my partner. Everything was an experiment, and nothing needed to stay.

I still have to be very cognizant of my past. Sometimes, seemingly random actions will trigger me and make it difficult to voice exactly what I want during sex—but that’s okay. It’s an ongoing process, and it becomes more bearable—and even enjoyable—when you’re on that journey with someone to whom you can express those specific needs and experiences.

It’s also helpful to go and read up on kink culture, BDSM, and sexuality in general—or even take some courses, like PSYC 333 or GNDS 215, while at Queen’s.

For me, there are still politics within sex; that’s probably true for everyone in some form. Sometimes being a submissive makes me feel like I’m betraying a sisterhood. Sometimes penetrative sex itself can make me feel like I’m less Queer. I don’t think that ever goes away. I think we’re just supposed to prioritize what feels good to us.

It’s difficult enough to dismantle systems of oppression in our professional and social lives, we shouldn’t also have to do it during our sex lives.

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