Why You Can Be a Feminist and Still Like It Rough
Miranda Levy is a major in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Elon University where she pens a sex column for its student-run lifestyle magazine, The Edge

“Just because you like to be tied up, spanked, and called ‘bitch,’ doesn’t mean you’re a bad feminist.”

— Em & Lo, “The Big Bang

The first time I had an orgasm during intercourse was the first time I’d had rough sex.

I was 17 years old, had been sexually active for two years, and was discovering my passion for women’s rights. I had recently helped to found a feminist club at my high school. I would proudly don t-shirts reading “My Body My Rules” and “Fight for Feminism.” I began reading Gloria Steinem and subscribed to Bitch magazine.

But as I lay there, sweaty and satisfied, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why do I like this? I’m a feminist, I shouldn’t enjoy this…right?”

I struggled for a few months with the seeming disconnect between my politics and my pleasure. But then it hit me one day. I was at home, in my bed, doing what a lot of teenagers tend to do: fantasizing about sex. And I suddenly realized I wasn’t dreaming about dominating my partner in bed. Instead, what was working for me, naturally and almost automatically, was dreaming about my partner dominating me.

This desire to be dominated in bed can be — and often has been — misconstrued as the glorification of male domination over women. It’s similar to the misconception that if a woman decides to be a stay-at-home mom, then she is a “bad feminist.” But knowing what you want and expressing those desires is one of the most empowering things a woman can do for herself.

So once I stopped worrying about my sexually submissive tendencies and not only embraced them, but began expressing them to partners, I felt more powerful than ever.

And I’m not alone. According to a survey conducted by the Journal of Sexual Medicine, about 65% of women and about 53% of men enjoy being dominated sexually. More than half of both women and men have this fantasy. It’s a seemingly natural source of sexual excitement for many people from all demographics that can actually, ironically, be freeing and uplifting rather than self-destructive or deflating.

All this is not to say my feminism flies out the window once the bedroom door shuts. I explain clearly to any partner what I do and do not enjoy. Consent is necessary for any sexual endeavor, of course, but so is mutual respect, even when hair pulling is involved. If a guy simply assumes that I or “all women” want a man to take over, then I’ll leave right there and then. Being held down and tousled around is only enjoyable when safety and respect are in the mix.

As a feminist, I fight for women to be equal to men. The sexual revolution is not over, especially for women we need to continue fighting. But putting down others for their particular (some might even say “pervy”) sexual desires, claiming they’re not feminist or not feminist enough, will get us nowhere. If men are not shamed for or ashamed about their sexual fantasies, then we women should’t be either. 

So whether you like a good spanking or not, embrace that preference, talk about it, explore it. As long as you’re not indifferent to your safe, sane and consensual sexual desires, your sex life will kick ass.

Miranda Levy

Here’s a feminist guide to one kinky scenario:
How to Make Your Ravishment Fantasy Come True