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They dominate: women’s experiences in BDSM

Consensual practices involving ties, discipline, domination, and submission can represent freedom from female social impositions in fetishism

Ropes, latex, whips, collars, leather, handcuffs. Associating these objects with sex and pleasure may seem strange to many people. The last published edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), in 2013, for example, still considered these practices as “paraphilic disorders”. In addition, a number of researchers from the 1990s linked sadomasochism to cannibalism, vampirism, mass murder, necrophilia, and other disruptive behaviors. And this created an idea that persists to this day: BDSM practitioners are “wicked and crazy” people.

For those unfamiliar, BDSM is a set of consensual practices that involve bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadomasochism, and other similar patterns of human sexual behavior. In a world dominated by machismo, it is logical to think that women involved in BDSM are even more stigmatized. For the professional dominatrix Dommenique Luxor, the female gender is already seen socially as a “deviant body that has no voice”. In other words, being female and dominant is certainly a challenge. However, for some, becoming professional in these practices was the way to financially emancipate themselves, to get out of an abusive relationship, or to pursue a job outside the capitalist logic.

There is no man who does not obey Dominique when she puts on high heels and holds a whip. And when he doesn’t respect her, he suffers punishments that include shocks, verbal humiliation, and beatings (all with consent and respect for the safe word, of course). A professional in the field for over 20 years, Dominique is the author of the book “ Eu, Dominique ” (Leya, 192 pages, R$ 19.90), which tells about her work routine. She also teaches courses and workshops.

Outside the four walls, Dominique is Daniela, another woman who suffers from society’s machismo. Although in the profession she plays a character, it is not possible to dissociate the two personalities. Dominique says that as he became more and more dominant professionally, his personal life also changed. She explains:

“I take the dominator profession to everything in my life and other spheres of relationship. I put myself in the position of being an extremely productive woman, who manages to survive working with sexuality, raising a child, not having other side jobs… I can be anywhere and my body can be any character”.

For Sansa Rope, the weapon against male domination is the ropes. Since she became interested in shibari (a tying technique of Japanese origin), she had to deal with comments and jokes coming from men. “They thought it was cute and funny for a woman to want to learn shibari,” he says. “But today I’m proud that I tie it better than many of them.”

Cassandra Suprema, who in addition to being a dominator is a psychologist, psychoanalyst and activist for the emancipation of women at risk of domestic violence, believes that one of the central pillars linking BDSM to female liberation is consensuality. In practice, nothing happens if the two parties are not in agreement. And if there is no agreement, there is no eroticism – it is violence.

The second point is that BDSM allows each subject to assume an identity according to their fantasies and enjoyment. Therefore, she makes it very clear: to be empowered, women do not necessarily need to assume a dominant role. If she enjoys being submissive, she can take that position.

“I am a fan of female supremacy because it holds the secrets of female enjoyment. The woman is superior to a man because her enjoyment is infinitely greater. I believe there can be empowerment via female enjoyment. So I don’t make a difference between dominator and submissive.”

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REFLECTION OF SOCIETY

One of the foundations of BDSM is that there are always two roles: that of the “submissive” and that of the “dominant/dominant” who takes psychological and/or physical control over the partner. According to a 2018 study by Tilburg University researchers Andreas Wismeijer and Marcel van Assen, 76% of women in BDSM are submissive, 16% switchers (playing both roles), and only 8% dominant. Among men, 48% are dominant, 34% submissive, and 18% switchers.

These numbers are not surprising when compared to other social systems, where a large part of the positions of power are occupied by people of the male gender. And, as in other spheres, machismo also affects the fetishistic world in other ways, such as encouraging female competition. According to Sansa, however, there is a recent movement towards the emergence of more dominant women in BDSM and, more than that, wanting to pass on their knowledge through courses and workshops.

WOMEN IN BDSM: SANSA ROPE HAS BEEN WORKING PROFESSIONALLY WITH SHIBARI FOR ALMOST TWO YEARS AND MINISTER WORKSHOPS ON PRACTICE

“These are women encouraging other women to dominate and develop their sexuality,” says Sansa.

For Dominique, this change is associated with other militancy movements. She draws a parallel between the Second Wave of Feminism, which began in 1960 in the United States, and the rise in literature and media citations about women within BDSM. According to the dominatrix and historian, this same correlation can be made today, when talking about feminism is on the rise, as well as asserting oneself as a practitioner of BDSM. “This is a direct reflection of militancy: people don’t necessarily need to talk about hidden BDSM,” she says. “This shifts to the sense of non-sexism and machismo and actually includes deviant bodies.”

As for Cassandra, the fetishistic world is as sexist and sexist as society itself. She says the fetish is a subculture – not a counterculture. In this way, it bears the mark of conformity. What happens in society reflects on the BDSM world. And in the world of ropes and handcuffs, changing this reality also depends on a union between women.

“I believe that to fight sexism and machismo in BDSM it is necessary a lot of sorority and organization of all, both the domes and the subs. Furthermore, we cannot forget the process of educating men, whether dominant or submissive.”

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STILL A TABOO?

It is very likely that all women born in the last century have heard at least once in their lives that it is necessary to “always please the man”, “be kind” and “obey what he asks”. Women are created to be servile, affectionate, and submissive. Thus, it is easy to understand why, for many, assuming positions of dominance is a difficult task.

For Dominique, for example, breaking this paradigm was not simple. BDSM put her body in a place she wasn’t culturally prepared – she wasn’t taught to be dominant. “Even when a woman has a voice, she runs the risk of not knowing how to act in that place”, he says. “We weren’t trained for that, because historically we don’t occupy these places.”

Cassandra says that this moral, sexual and civilized control, which they try to impose on women’s bodies, is one of the biggest barriers for them to have healthy relationships with their own bodies. The empowerment that comes with the dominatrix profession, for example, makes it possible to occupy this “strange” place for the female body and thus begin to deconstruct these stigmas. As a woman, there is no way to escape machismo, which is pervasive in society.

In her appointments, she notices a great difficulty that women have with sexuality. For her, working with the erotic of bodies via BDSM can reverse this situation, especially in cases of domestic violence.

“After much research and practice in psychological care, I concluded that eroticism is an excellent solution for relationship problems, as there is a listening to one’s desires and less social impositions”

Along with the sexism that surrounds the fetishistic world, Sansa and Dominique point to another challenge in the profession: social normativity and misinformation, which makes them have to deal daily with prejudice for being so-called “perverse” people. And this often turns away other women who want to venture into BDSM. A common problem is when women want to participate in the practices but only come across information coming from men. Then there is the risk of ending up in abusive relationships disguised as BDSM.

In terms of community, Dominique says that the movement must have a voice of its own, begin to show its face, and have its own formats to communicate practices and convince people that they are bodies that deserve to be respected.

And research indicates that as much as whips and collars scare some people, interest in the fetish is high. According to a study by Christian Joyal in 2015, 64.6% of women and 53.3% of men responded that they had fantasized about being dominated and 46.7% of women and 59.6% of men said they had fantasized. dominate other people sexually. Apparently, what’s missing is opening your head.

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