Browsing Tag



on rape fantasies and BDSM

[content note: discussions of sexual violence]

I grew up loving 80s sci-fi movies. From The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension to Enemy Mine, the more cheesy and outlandish the more I love it. Movies like Back to the Future and Ghostbusters were staples in our house. So, you can imagine I’ve seen the Mad Max films more than once (and yes, Beyond Thunderdome is as hilariously bad and wonderful as it sounds). When I first saw the trailer for Fury Road, though, I was all “meh” because I want my 80s sci-fi to be 80s sci-fi and it looked like they were making it all artistic and drama-y, which doesn’t really float my boat (the gender-flipped Ghostbusters, though, that looks like it is going to be awesome).

I was planning on eventually renting Fury Road, but when the MRA corners of the internet completely lost their shit over how feminist it was, I told my partner we had to go see it. I’m not usually one for post-apocalyptic car-chase movies, but Fury Road surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. There’s a lot of good things about it, and if movies about dystopian societies that feature flame-throwing guitars are your thing, you should watch it at some point.

There’s been a lot of interesting conversations happening on tumblr about Fury Road– like the fact that both of the main characters are disabled, or that it focuses on women saving and protecting women— and I’ve enjoyed them. However, after a bit, I started noticing a particular fandom spring up around the character of Immortan Joe.

If you don’t know anything about the movie, the following contains some insignificant spoilers:

Immortan Joe is an abusive, narcissistic, tyrannical, disgusting rapist. He created a religion where obeying him and glorifying him earn you a place in “Valhalla,” and he is completely obsessed with producing healthy offspring. He keeps a harem of slaves that he rapes anytime they are ovulating, and that’s the main plot of the movie. Furiosa is trying to get these women away from him, and they are willing to risk everything to escape. They refused to be a part of Immortan Joe’s “vision.”

The fandom centered on his character features artwork (like the one shown above by Mirva Pohjonen) and fanfiction, which is usually (from the things I’ve seen float through my feed) dubcon or noncon one-shots that feature humiliation/degradation and brutal abuse. One story that passed through my feed featured Joe fucking a woman’s face so hard he knocks her teeth out. Many people have already gotten Immortan Joe’s brand tattooed on the back of their neck.

Needless to say, this started a bit of a ruckus. One women condemned the entire fandom as being completely fucked up and offensive to all rape victims, which, of course, brought the response that there were rape survivors in the fandom and how dare anyone tell them how to “cope with their trauma.”

I’m not entirely sure where I stand on this issue, mostly because I think this depends on the people involved and where they are in their healing. Personally, I find noncon/rape fantasy stories disturbing, but I can understand how working through those emotions in the controlled environment of writing or reading fiction can be a constructive, healing process. I think that it could be similar to combat veterans playing through video games to treat PTSD.

However, I think there needs to be a stage when a victim moves past that, and I think it needs to be something we engage in critically. If you’re enjoying a story about a rape so brutal the victim’s teeth get knocked out, I think there needs to be a moment where you sit back and ask yourself why that is.

This matters to me especially because I’m kinky, and I enjoy all sorts of BDSM things in the bedroom.

I can understand why a lot of people, feminists included, don’t think of any BDSM activity as healthy. I’d challenge them on that, especially since there’s so many kinky elements in pretty ordinary “vanilla” sex (digging your nails into his back? pinning hands above your head?), but from a superficial perspective, I get it. Any time I’ve seen BDSM porn, I walk away feeling a little sick even if I’d be willing to do some of those things with my partner. Devoid of context, removing any aspect of relationship or trust, BDSM can seem … weird, even icky.

Me and my partner have conversations about this all the time. We engage in BDSM critically, and we involve more than just the “do you think this would be fun or feel good?” in our discussions about it. For me, personally, I enjoy sensation and impact play because of my experiences with chronic pain. To me, these types of play allow me to enjoy and appreciate my body in a way that no other activity can. I am in consistent pain on a daily basis, and as anyone who deals with some kind of chronic illness can tell you, that sort of reality can make you hate your body. BDSM helps me overcome that, because in a certain context (a loving and trusting relationship with my partner), I can overcome that hatred and depression. In play, my body becomes a wonderland (to quote John Mayer).

I didn’t just realize “huh! I like being spanked during sex!” and run with it. I asked myself why. Why would I want to be hit during such a loving, intimate moment? Why do I get off on that? The answer was the above: because it doesn’t register as pain, necessarily. It is transcendent and freeing, and helps me to escape the daily drudgery of chronic illness. I love what my body is capable of doing, of experiencing.

This may not be true of every person– some people might be attracted to impact play because they have some internalized messaging about sex being “bad” and they have to be “punished” for having it. I’ve spoken with some people for who that’s true, so they decided to explore sensation and bondage play, but avoid things that are reminiscent of childhood discipline.

I’m also capable of getting off on power play. This is the “domination/submission” aspect, and is why I usually refer to myself as a bottom, not a sub. While it’s true that in a healthy, consensual BDSM scene the submissive retains complete control and power over what actually happens, on a personal level I don’t pursue that sort of dynamic in my relationship. When I asked “why am I turned on by domination?” I realized the answer wasn’t healthy– I was turned on by it because of how I react to being controlled. Domination and power play speaks to my personality, which is naturally fairly compliant with authority, and to how I was raised in an environment that demanded total obedience to men.

In short, the reason why domination would be attractive to me is that it reminds me of patriarchy, sexism, and religious totalitarianism. A therapist once told my mother that sometimes abusive dynamics can “feel like riding a bike” to survivors. Because it feels familiar and easy, we can be susceptible to further abuse without necessarily recognizing it. Domination is like that– it feels familiar, and therefore comfortable.

Which is why my partner and I agreed that it would not be a dynamic we explored. However, the same may not be true for every kinky relationship– without my particular set of baggage, domination may not be a problem for you. It could be simply another form of role play, something fun and sexy.

In the same way, the fandom surrounding Immortan Joe isn’t necessarily completely unhealthy. It could be a normal and productive part of someone’s fantasy life, but I feel that it’s important to be aware of ourselves when we’re attracted to characters like Loki or James from Twilight or Voldemort or Immortan Joe (or, for me, any villain played by Gary Oldman). We have to ask ourselves why.

Artwork by Mirva Pohjonen

Feminism, Social Issues

kink 101 for purity culture survivors: consent

[note: links may include NSFW material]

There are many amazing resources out there for people who think they might be kinky or into BDSM, and I’ll link to some at the bottom of this post. However, if you’re anything like me … a lot of what’s out there seems conflicting and confusing, and because I grew up on the rather strict end of purity culture I didn’t have the tools to start sorting any of it out. I didn’t know anything about sex, and many of us don’t. Someone I met in college thought that semen was green because of a joke they’d heard about grass stains, and I thought that “going through the back door” meant doggy.

And that’s just regular sex. If you think  you might be into kink, things are going to be exponentially harder, because while “safe, sane, consensual” seems like a spectacular phrase, purity culture survivors may not have a personal baseline for “safe” and “sane” and heaven knows we’re not given any sort of education about what consent actually is.

So, I’m going to do my best to give people like me the baseline they need to move on and explore BDSM/kink if they’d like to. I only really have my experience to draw upon, so please keep that in mind. I’m coming at this from the perspective of being a sub/bottom, but hopefully what I share here is applicable to both bottoms and tops.


The Most Very Important Number One Thing You Absolutely Need to Understand is consent. For all forms of sex, I strongly encourage everyone to rely on the idea of enthusiastic consent for a variety of reasons: first of all, the absence of a “no” does not make a “yes,” which is why I disagree with the “no means no” approach to educating people about consent. Second, making sure that your sex partner definitely wants to have sex with you instead of trying to manipulate them into bed means that you’re not a creep. Lastly, when everyone involved enthusiastically wants sex, it just makes it better all around, and I am very much in favor of people having the best sex possible.

However, if you’re going to explore BDSM with someone, you need more than enthusiastic consent– you need informed consent. If you don’t explicitly lay out everything that you’re interested in and what it all means and what all your expectations are, you’re inevitably going to run into something like this:

Person 1: (thinking about spanking) “Hey do you want to have kinky sex with me?”
Person 2: (thinks “kinky” means “oral”) “That sounds like fun. Sure!”

Me and Handsome have this lay-it-out-there conversation all of the time. He’s actually much more interested in the research side of things, so he’ll come to me with an idea, explain everything it would include, and I, especially since I’m almost always the bottom, get to say yay or nay.

A little bit ago,  we were talking about a bunch of different equipment we could experiment with, and possibly using a collar came up. Me, knowing myself and that I’ve been freaked out by high-collared shirts, turtle necks, and choker necklaces since I was a child, didn’t like the idea. Handsome also wasn’t enthused with the visual of me looking like I could be on a leash, so we decided that collars weren’t for us.

But, in that particular situation, I had to know beforehand that I wasn’t going to be ok with collars, and Handsome knows that he’s not interested in the domination aspect that some play with. For other things I’m open to the idea, but I’m not sure how I’ll react to it while we’re in the midst of things, which leads me to …

Very Important Idea Number Two: boundaries and safewords.

Most boundaries should be set before you enter the “scene.” For example, Handsome and I are not, and will never be, ok with using a belt to spank me. However, let’s say for the moment that Handsome is actually really into spanking someone with a belt. If I say “no, I am not comfortable with that,” it should never even come up during a scene. Ever. For any reason. Period. End of story. This could be what us kinksters refer to as a “hard” or “soft limit,” or it could just be “meh, I’m not into that today.” Subs/bottoms aren’t the only one with limits, either, and all boundaries should be respected. If I said “I don’t want to be spanked with a belt,” or “I don’t want to be spanked with a belt today,” Handsome is not allowed to bring it up during the scene. It is not acceptable for anyone to try to manipulate, pressure, or coerce someone– and while that applies to pretty much any human interaction, it especially applies to kinky sex.

Other things can be negotiated during a scene. For example, I knew I was open to the idea of a riding crop, but I wasn’t entirely sure where he could use it, or where I would like it to be used. In this particular case, I consented to exploring it, and was open to it used almost anywhere. When we began using it, I relied on my safe words– which for us, since we don’t usually do any role play, is “ouch,” “no,” and “stop.” Some people use “yellow” and “red,” but there are a variety of things to use safe words for: such as “I like being hit that hard and this often, I just want you to use that thing somewhere else for a while.”

The most amazing thing about BDSM in my opinion is how communication works. It relies upon complete and total honesty at all times, and if you feel as though you cannot be explicitly honest with your partner, you are not with a good partner. If you feel that you’ll be ignored, you are not with a good partner.

This whole “set and respect boundaries” idea isn’t something that conservative Christians are real good about teaching and modeling. In fact, people who come from a purity culture background were probably taught the exact opposite. You have the right to have boundaries, and you have the right to have those boundaries respected. When people cross your boundaries, you absolutely have the right to tell them so and to enforce those boundaries. If you say “you crossed my boundary, don’t do that again,” you are not being mean. You are not being “unkind” or “uncharitable” or “ungracious” or whatever word was the one that got tossed around in your Sunday school room.

I also want to make it very clear that you don’t have to have a “good reason” to say “no” to something, whether it be equipment, an act, or a scenario. Feeling “eh, not really interested or turned on by that” for no particular reason is the only reason you need. I’ve found that women who were brought up in purity culture tend to believe that we have to justify and rationalize every decision we make, and I’ve found that’s actually really sort of ridiculous. “I don’t want to” is the only reason anyone needs. If that’s not a good enough reason for your partner … get a new partner.

And lastly, Very Important Idea Number Three: know thyself.

This is probably going to be the hardest one for purity culture survivors to get used to, because it goes against everything we’ve been taught. The only thing most of us know about sex is “just say no,” until we get married and then we’re supposed to Instant Sex Monkeys/Porn Goddesses.

The reality that we struggle to understand every single day of our lives is that being a person means having to come to terms with our sexuality, and that sexuality is a part of our identity in a way that “SEX OUTSIDE OF CISHET MARRIAGE IS A SIN” doesn’t quite cover. There’s no room for gay people, or bi people, or asexual people in this narrative, firstly, and there’s barely any room for straight people, either.

But, if you want to explore kink, it’s important that you explore yourself first of all, and that doesn’t just mean masturbation. It also means embracing your fantasies, whatever they are and however weird you think they might be. Thanks to the teachings I got about “fantasizing about any person living, dead, or fictional is a sin,” I ended up resorting to … well. Google The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife when you get a chance and … yup. There’s a whole wide world out there full of people thinking up interesting things, and I think you should go out there and find them. Honestly, most of my sex education came from a website dedicated to Star Wars and Star Gate fan fiction– and through writing a ton of my own.

Fantasy, thankfully, is a safe way to figure out what you think you might like, and the sky is the limit.

There’s also an element of just being comfortable in your own skin. “I want to be tied up and spanked” is something that takes some confidence to say, and of knowing who you are and what you want. Purity culture is dedicated to the idea of abstinence, of denial, of building our lives and our ethics around refusing to do what we want. Because of that, it can be difficult for us to admit that we might want something. BDSM is the opposite of that– it’s built at least partly on knowing and doing exactly what you want exactly the way you want to do it. That can take some getting used to.


Anyway, this has gotten long, so I want to stop here. I wish it wasn’t so necessary to talk about such fundamentally basic things, but it is, and we all need the occasional reminder. Feel free to ask me anything you’d like in the comments, or send me an e-mail (my contact information is at the top).

Further reading:

“BDSM” category at Frisky Business
“Stay Safe” category at the Submissive Guide
Clarisse Thorn’s list of BDSM resources
A Submissive’s Initiative “BDSM Basics” archive

Honestly, though, the best stuff is in books. The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino is a good book to start with.
 Photo by Savara

on being a kinky Christian feminist

[content note for discussions of sexual violence]

Note for friends and family: I’m going to be talking about my sex life in probably more detail than you’d feel comfortable with knowing when we’re sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, so you might want to skip this one.

If you are in the Christian feminist blogosphere, you probably noticed that there was a bit of a brouhaha over the post that Sarah Bessey put up last Monday: “On Jian Ghomeshi and the Acceptability of Sexualized Violence Against Women.” I didn’t catch onto it until last weekend, when I read her post Sunday evening and … I had a lot of feelings about what she said. I have a lot of respect for Sarah; her work, her blog, and her book have all meant a great deal to me over the past couple of years. I’ve recommended her writing to many of the people that I care about, and probably will continue to do so.

I do my best to avoid being a “hot take” blogger– I talk about the things I want to talk about, and sometimes that means going over some internet controversy, but I do it when I’ve taken the time to really think about it and I don’t really care about whether or not it’s as “relevant” anymore. For this post … I honestly don’t really want to respond point-by-point to Sarah’s argument, since if you go to her blog and read the comments, a lot of people have already made the arguments I would have.

What I do want to do, however, is contribute something that is missing: the perspective of a Christian feminist who also participate in kink or BDSM. I’m not the only one talking about this (see this post or this two-part series), but there isn’t exactly a whole lot of us, for reasons I completely understand. I try to keep the TMI stuff to myself. Mostly.

But, when I read Sarah’s post I …. well, it hurt. A lot. It hurt because of statements like this:

How dare we make light of the very real terror and horror that women have endured and are enduring? You talk to a woman who has been raped or sexually violated or beaten or abused and then try to tell me that it’s okay to be turned on by that. It is NOT okay. It is never okay, it never will be okay. Violence against women is epidemic and evil, it’s not to be mined for sexual pleasure. How dare we forget our sisters? How dare we make light of or sexualize for our own pleasures the unmitigated horror that is endured by women even at this moment?

I’m a rape victim. I’ve been sexually violated, beaten, and abused, and I am turned on by kink. So is my partner– a wonderful, loving, gentle, compassionate man married to a sexual abuse survivor. And while I’ve heard all the arguments about how being a victim means my brain is all confused, I don’t buy it because I have been turned on by really kinky stuff since I was very young. And while Sarah argues that BDSM is intrinsically unloving, when I look into my partner’s eyes I see the exact opposite of that. He adores me and he expresses that every single time we make love, no matter how vanilla or kinky it is.

Sarah says she’s gotten a lot of letters from women who were physically and sexually abused– women whose partners used “BDSM” to groom them, to cover for their abuse, much like what Jian Ghomeshi is currently doing. I completely understand Sarah’s concern about this, because I’ve been in the exact same place. My rapist used the cover of BDSM and kink as one of many tools to convince me that what he was doing was “normal.” He would humiliate me, he would force me to do things that I didn’t want to do as part of being “dominant,” he would use verbally abusive and degrading language that I didn’t like, and he would hurt me and use his “kinkiness” to cover it up.

So when I became intimate with Handsome, I had sky-scraper-big question marks about whether or not I felt ok having kink in our relationship. I knew it still turned me on like it always had, but I didn’t know if I was comfortable allowing it into a healthy relationship. I took a good long hard look at myself and asked if I wanted it because the only thing I had to go on for “normal” in a relationship was abusive– was my response to kink a leftover from abuse being conflated with love?

What I figured out was that there are certain things that I am not ok with, and will never be ok with. Many of the things have been discovered over time: right off the bat I knew I’d never allow a specific type of “dirty” talk during sex– being called a bitch or a whore, for example. Some women, men, and others enjoy that sort of thing, but I cannot handle that. Other things we’ve discovered through talking about it, like the fact that even though I love being spanked before and during sex, being spanked with a belt would be a hard limit for us.

But there is so much else to explore, and it is wonderful and beautiful. Handsome and I “switch,” although I’m usually the one subbing. I can’t even begin to explain how much I enjoy watching him as he ties me up and pulls my arms and legs until I can feel an amazing stretch, a feeling that is impossible to duplicate without being restrained. When I grab his wrists, force them over his head, and tie them together, then order him to do whatever I want, I can’t get over how his eyes sparkle at me. I adore the way he fights to bury his fingers in my hair when I’m slowly teasing him but he can’t.

What I love about kink is how it exposes us as a couple. It puts the amount of love we have for each other and how deeply we trust each other fully on display in a way that more vanilla sex just doesn’t. For me, when I’m subbing, there’s an unbelievable amount of anticipation that is almost joyful. I don’t know what he’s about to do, or where this is about to go, but I know that I’m going to love it.

The best part is that I have complete and total control over what happens. As a rape victim, I cannot overstate how much that means to me. When Handsome and I are in a scene, I know that if he attempts something that makes me uncomfortable I can put an instant stop to it– but that hasn’t even happened yet. While we’re playing, we’re attentive to each other in a way that we don’t quite attain when we’re having a missionary quickie. Whoever is on top is watching every single breath and twitch, and we’re communicating with each other more than any other time we have sex. And because I know he is watching me incredibly carefully, I’m free to let go; he’s pushed me in ways I didn’t think was possible, and that’s happened because I trust him and I know he loves me.

And yes, many time’s there’s pain, but not always. I delight in being pinched and nipped and bitten and spanked and gripped and scratched and flogged. Most of the time I’m begging for more and for harder. But pain is not the same thing as violence, and causing pain is certainly not the same thing as abuse. That’s not even an argument that makes sense– everything in our daily lives belies that. It’s non-consensual pain (emotional or physical) that is an intrinsic violation and is always wrong, full stop.

To me, BDSM is about communication, and respect, and trust, and love, and commitment, and honoring each other. It’s about exploring, finding, and then keeping boundaries. That’s what I wish people could know when they think about kinky couples. I understand if you’re not personally comfortable with it. I understand if the furthest you ever want to go is fuzzy handcuffs. I understand being confused or even frightened by what other people are more than just comfortable with. That’s the beauty of consent– if you don’t want to, no one is allowed to make you.

Photo by Turbo.Beagle