On Being a Bottom

I'm a huge bottom in the bedroom. My best friend calls me "Little Nelly Bottom."

Depending on what sexual subculture you spend your time in, this could mean any of a million things. I spend most of my time in the lesbian community, and a little in the BDSM world, so that colors my understanding of the term. I use it to mean I like someone else to be in the driver's seat for sex, and I like to be on the tied-down end of bondage, a little spanking, and some power play.

Now, being in the passenger's seat doesn't mean I don't communicate my needs or that I'm not contributing to the action. I just like to get fucked. I like it when my lover takes control; I like to be pushed around a little, and I like being told what to do. As I've said before, I love to tease, but then I want to be thrown down and made to stop. (With appropriate consent, of course.)

I try to be comfortable with my naughty subservience, but as a feminist and a fiercely independent person, it's an awkward thing to feel and admit. I get this niggling sense that I should be large and in charge all the time, like my personal politics should be carrying over into my sexual preferences. I'm trying to overthrow gender roles, here. Being submissive in bed is a stereotypically feminine thing. Bad feminist!

I don't consciously subscribe to that way of thinking, but it sneaks up on me a lot. One unfortunate consequence of feminism's emphasis on the personal as political is that it becomes too easy to discriminate against people for not being "feminist enough." I think that feminism is largely about personal choice regardless of gender, and when we try to name some behaviors as always feminist and others as always anti-woman, we're losing sight of that.

It's absolutely true that the patriarchy is created and perpetuated in our personal lives and our culture. There are millions of little ways we all contribute to it every day, without even noticing. It's so programmed into us that it's nearly impossible to get rid of completely. It's good to try not to perpetuate male privilege.

I think there are as many ways to fight patriarchy, though, as there are feminists. I think I can be a sexual bottom in a feminist way. If what I want is to be handcuffed and fucked and I name that, claim it, and go out into the world trying to make it happen, that's a feminist action. Being a woman and respecting my own sexuality and honoring it is a powerful thing.

Controlling female sexuality has been a big way the patriarchy has controlled women. By resisting that and writing my own narrative of sexuality, whatever that may entail, I'm coming into my feminist own. So long as I'm conscious and deliberate, I feel good about being a bottom.


Michael Halila said...

For what it's worth, I think you're right. Trying to fight patriarchy is damn important, but if we make "anti-patriarchy" into a creed, in my mind it becomes another form of sexual oppression. If we outlaw submissive women and macho men, we become reverse Jesuits trying to impose our sexual mores on everyone else. That might be slightly better than what we have now, but it'd still be oppression.

Also, I think we have to recognize some limits on how far we can change. Personally, I was brought up to be a very manly man, and although that failed in some crucial respects, I can still go only so far in transforming myself into homo feministicus. While we should make a great effort to expunge patriarchy from our daily lives, it's a hell of a lot more difficult with matters of the unconscious and irrational, like sex.

In conclusion, go on being a bottom. I think you're exactly right when you say that what matters is that we all write our own sexuality.

Unknown said...

More sexual oppression is exactly what I hope we can avoid. It's not like we don't have enough already. I think we've made a lot of progress but so long as we're still so trapped in our gender roles we'll still be trapped in our sexual roles.

Myca said...

I am reminded of the Emma Goldman line about "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution." I think it applies just as well to orgasms.

One of my standard rules of thumb is that no ideology is more important than the lived experiences and lives of actual people. There's nothing wrong with theorizing about how this sort of sex is more or less feminist than that sort of sex, but when it leads someone to say, "therefore you shouldn't be having the kind of sex that gets you off," that's when I think I might have to get off the train.

On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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