Why Do We Love Being Submissive in the Bedroom?

In office hours we’re all ‘power to the woman!’ So why are so many feminists happy to hand over the reins behind closed doors?

26 October, 2018
Why Do We Love Being Submissive in the Bedroom?

The clock strikes 6pm and Anjali*, 32, begins packing up her desk. She’s had another satisfying day at her work, a Delhi-based organisation that focuses on educating and
increasing people’s awareness about gender equality and fighting for women’s rights. As she leaves the office, she gets a tingle of excitement thinking about the night ahead with her man. She’s trying to decide whether she wants to role-play a rape scenario with him, or be chained up and spanked. If you haven’t figured it out already, Anjali identifies as sexually submissive. And she’s not alone; many strong-willed women who hold positions of power in their daily life happily relinquish control when it comes to the boudoir.
Hang on a minute! You may be thinking. Why would such an avid feminist be willing to degrade herself like that and be treated as inferior to her partner? But relinquishing authority and choosing to be sexually submissive can actually be an act of power, says Anjali. And if we’re honest, many women enjoy being dominated in the bedroom to some extent.

Anjali*, 32
“You can certainly be both a passionate, strong, loud, proud feminist while also being a soft, sweet, delightful submissive in bed—and I know this because it’s me. Sexual power-play is not a preference; it’s actually a necessity for my pleasure. I can’t fully enjoy sex if the power dynamic isn’t imposed upon me to some degree. I love being smacked on the thighs or across the butt, whether it’s with a ruler or a paddle, and this is extremely enjoyable to me. Even something as simple as him saying, ‘You are my sex slave, ‘I own you’, or ‘You mean nothing to me’ turns me on. It’s these ‘degrading’ comments that I actually find empowering and pleasurable. The two characteristics—me as a feminist activist and as a sexual submissive—don’t conflict with each other. I feel it’s a balance and they actually complement each other. I’m regularly told by people that I’m intimidating or that I have a powerful presence in my everyday life, so that’s precisely why in my sexual life I relish being able to finally, in one blissful aspect of my life, be able to let go and have someone else take charge, make the decisions and call the shots. It allows me to leave behind who I am and access this hidden facet of myself. In the bedroom, I get to be meek, obedient, vulnerable and powerless—all of the things I am not in my everyday life. 

But I need to be in a long-term relationship to be able to trust someone wholeheartedly with my body and my safety. The core principle of BDSM is sex that’s consensual, so as a submissive, you communicate to a dominant what you want them to do to you in advance. To me there’s nothing more empowering than, as a woman, letting your partner know what you need them to do in order to experience intense pleasure. As a feminist, I believe I have the right to choose what I want in my sex life—and my choice is to be submissive.” 

“Wanting to be dominated does not mean you are weak or lesser; it means that you understand your boundaries and your wants,” explains sexologist Chantelle Otten. “Being a feminist and being submissive has received backlash, but the female submissive who participates in BDSM consensually is empowered.”
She says an authoritative woman’s desire to be treated as a submissive in a sexual context often comes down to two reasons, one being that a woman may find power in asking a partner to fulfil her sexual wishes. “How empowering to know that you can be in a situation that you can control, that is consensual, to have the ability to give in to your fantasies. You can be as naughty as you want without being shamed. Female submission does not mean oppression,” says Chantelle.
“Being a confident, secure and sexual woman is being a woman who is in touch with her sexuality, feels uninhibited to express it, and feels confident to express her desires
and needs and to ask for what she likes and wants,” adds sex therapist Desiree Spierings. Chantelle believes the second reason women are attracted to submission is their desire to relinquish control to someone they trust so that they can take a break from their day-to-day. “Handing over charge once in a while is a form of self-respect—not having to analyse and make decisions, but just enjoying the ride,” she says. “For many women who are used to running the world and workplaces and home, they like to just hand the responsibility to someone else. It can be a form of self-care—knowing to let go and be looked after.”