In the post-WWII gay scene there were two roles: top and bottom. These terms are coined from sexual positioning: top is defined by the penetrator (/giving) and bottom is defined by the penatratee (/receiving). As the gay leather scene became part of pop culture and an influence on all-kinksters the terms top and bottom have been redefined to focus on specific activies such as sadomasochism, power-roles, bondage and restraints, and other fetishies.
I identify as a bottom with kinks that focus on submission and masochism.
I started exploring these interests five years ago in the digital scene and one of the first things I noticed was that there are a lot of ciswomen who are submissive. These observations were later renewed a year ago when I joined New York’s local/public scene. From a feminist perspective it is a bit distressing– has one of the things I hate the most (patriarchal oppression) infected one of the things I love the most (sex)?
The answer: very likely. Gender roles have taught me how I should dress, how I should speak, and also how I should behave in relationships. I know this because when someone in this society is raised as a female they are also raised to be calm, passive, obedient, maternal, and submissive. It seems pretty natural for that to internalize and for me to get off to being submissive.
The natural confusion that I keep on finding myself muddled in is how I can call myself a strong feminist when I’m a willing bottom. I’m still deconstructing these two identities however, so far, I gather that I can be a strong feminist and bottom because I do such in a consensual manner and because I feel empowered when I bottom.
First, I know that I choose to bottom. Consenting to bottoming isn’t anti-feminist because it is flexing the ability that the feminist prior to me fought for me to have. I have a platform to express and actualize sexual interests and this is evidence of feminism’s progress.
Second, I enjoy bottoming for many reasons but what is relative to this discussion is that bottoming and especially masochism makes me feel empowered. My masochistic experiences have led me to being belittled, degraded, raped, beaten, etc– in general by the end of the scene my power is taken away from me. And yet having these experiences make me feel powerful. When my weak points are hit(both literally and not) and I survive I know what my potential is. I know that there is a lot of internalized strength inside of me and I know that I can handle what life dishes out to me.