Welcome to Episode 2 of Rules Aren't Real, where we'll be debunking the rule that "empowered feminists shouldn't be submissive." Take a listen as we explore contemporary definitions of feminism, learn what it means to be a submissive, and challenge a rule that - at best - limits our choices and self-knowledge, and - at worst - endangers women. We're really excited about our first themed issue, and think you'll find it pretty fascinating too.  Either way, we can't wait to hear your thoughts. Join the conversation in the comments below, or on our Facebook page!


If you are or may be in an abusive relationship / if you need to get out of an absusive relationship:


Some interesting articles and standout notes we discovered in our research and referenced in this episode:


  • Summary: The woman who admits to enjoying sexual submission often finds herself stuck between the rock of a sexist society that tells her she's just exemplifying women's true nature, and the hard place of a feminist community that considers her brainwashed by the patriarchy.
  • Images in media of the BDSM scene don't help non-kinksters understand what the scene - and this choice - is really like: As feminist kinkster Mollena Williams, co-author of Playing Well With Others, points out, "If people see the imagery of BDSM, whips, chains, pain, the serial killers of film and television...? Of course they may be repelled and confused."
  • Defining feminism in only one way is also brainwashing/bigotry. pro-BDSM feminist Gayle Rubin. When women's sexual behavior is subject to negative scrutiny and found "wanting" by other women, it isn't feminism—it's bigotry, often fueled by little more than personal prejudices.
  • Feminist is the right to equal choice and opportunity. Those who condemn female submissives need to consider what conditioning has created their own sexual compass before they judge others. As Cliff Pervocracy says, "I don't get on vanilla women's cases about how maybe they're only vanilla because society discourages women from unconventional sexual choices.
  • Many of us were raised to be strong feminists, so this is counter-conditioning. "Plus, the conditioning argument is overly simplistic—for Mollena Williams, coming out as a submissive involved rejecting, not embracing, much of her conditioning. She says, "I was taught that being strong was the first thing you had to be, especially ... as a black woman. To be submissive, to be obedient, was NOT acceptable." 
  • Consensual kink doesn't equal rape/violence. Anti-BDSM feminists also need to understand the difference between consensual kink and violence against women, as they regularly fail to distinguish between the two. 
  • Like most rules that aren't real (rules, in general), this doesn't seem to apply to everyone: due to our culture's penchant for denying women their agency. When did you last hear of a man who enjoyed the services of a dominatrix being accused of not really wanting his salary, or the vote, or a life free from violence? 
  • People are aroused by many things that are not necessarily indicative of their wider lives
  • Cliff Pervocracy agrees: "When I look you in the eye and say 'I want this, I chose this, I sought this out,' believe me. If you trust women to know their own needs, believe me; and if you don't, don't call yourself a feminist."


  • I don't doubt my ability, my strength, my capability to communicate my boundaries — because I'm a feminist.
  • I have always found that my feminist politics actually support my submissive desires. When we tear away all of those societal shrouds of shame that veil our sex-negative culture, we realize that there are no rules, simply our authentic desires — and that is a liberating experience. This realization is a feminist act.
  • BDSM builds into its framework a pre-scene negotiation. That means before energy and power is exchanged in any manner, all parties involved sit down and discuss desires, limits, boundaries, roles, safe words, needs and expectation. As a submissive, my dominant and I enter into a scene as equals, as two empowered individuals that are clearly negotiating space and structure for our desires. And my desire is for submission.


  • I just assume spanking sex play will always be misunderstood by some people. I especially think some feminists can be doctrinaire: "X is alwaysbad for women," "women do this because of X," "men do this because of X."
  • Feminism has been earned on the backs of women who didn't get to CHOOSE to be submissive: I knew intellectually that our feminist ancestors fought for us to be equals to our partners. I felt embarrassed that my grandmothers or great-grandmothers did not have the right to vote, keep a bank account in their own name, or own property, and may have been literally forced to be a maid/chef/mommy for their men. Playing around with domination and submission - being bossed around, being ordered to perform sex acts, being spanking or restrained, being verbally talked down to - all seemed antithetical to feminism by its basic definition. 
  • The phrase people use in the BDSM world is "safe, sane and consensual"...And this should be obvious but it's worth saying: a real physically or emotionally abusive relationship is not "safe, sane and consensual."
  • The argument that women who enjoy BDSM are "taught" they should be submissive in bed is insulting to me as a feminist: I'm not a little girl who needs other people to tell me what's best for me. I choose to trust the men I "play" with." I know what kind of pornography and erotica turns me on. I know what kind of touch turns me on. I know what kind of words and tone of voice turn me on. 


  • It’s not politically correct, but it’s my desire. And that’s where decades of feminism should have brought us — to every woman being able to speak and have her own true desire. And I was claiming mine.


  • However, we didn't think of what we were doing as D/s, because our ideas about it were stereotypical. Fifty Shades portrays the dominant as a damaged but powerful man who uses BDSM as an outlet for his rage, and the submissive as a naive pushover swept away by the dominant's money and status. But in our relationship, we are equal partners in all things except our erotic life. 
  • Our D/s relationship is a chance to switch up our regular personalities, not manifest them.
  • The idea that if you're a sub you give over total control to somebody you don't know at all and they have no idea about what you want? That's not good BDSM. That's being a doormat. You have to come to submission from a place of strength. If you've got nothing to offer, that's not submission; that's a codependent bullshit relationship. 
  • As a feminist, I value the chance to say exactly what I want and get it. My submission is a way of doing that; it's a performance of my sexual and gender identity. I think of myself as femme because this is my choice to enact my femininity.
  • You don't want the dominant who's like Richard Gere in Pretty Woman, all  "I'm gonna dress you up and you do your hair like this and then you're perfect for me."You want the dominant who, whatever you're doing, says, "You're perfect for me; I love being with you."