Editor’s note and content warning: Fresh off the success of her anonymous sex column “Men are trash people in bed” in gal-dem’s inaugural print issue, Jezebel Sentinel is back to explore BDSM and feminism. As such a nuanced topic, please be aware before reading that this article contains references to sexual abuse, as well as consensual violence in a sexual setting. 

Hello darkness my old friend. It’s me, gal-dem’s resident Jezebel Sentinel, standing once more at the edge of the swamp that is my sex life, glaring balefully into it’s dark, writhing abyss. My recent musings are prompted by a specific event. It was my birthday and I was smashed. I was sitting on the floor of the smoking area trying (deeply unsuccessfully) to harness my motor functions for long enough to roll a cigarette. At this point, one of my equally wavy friends came over and conversation turned, as always, to our kinky antics.  She asked me several pointed questions that made me sloppily divulge some of my more submissive antics to her in a drunken slur. After my confession, she got up, and addressing rather more people than I thought she ought to be, bellowed: “I used to think I was a bad feminist in bed, but talking to you has made me feel a lot better.”

I don’t quite remember my reply, but I’m sure it was accompanied by some rather unconvincing attempts to convince the surrounding public that I wasn’t a deviant. This moment stuck with me. Was I a bad feminist? I knew feminists that didn’t give head because of the power imbalance, whereas I was casually letting myself get backhanded across the face mid-coitus. Was I woke in the streets, problematic in the sheets? Was all of the submissive stuff I enjoy a product of a society that has been systematically geared to degrade women, and was I a kinky cog working within the larger patriarchal machinery? What about the guys that wanted to bruise me black and blue in bed, did they hate women? 

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that all of these questions had the same answer: probably.  Herein lies the issue; as a woman of colour with masochistic tendencies, you inevitably open yourself up to abusers who are keen to take advantage of the power imbalance, and who will see your desire to have some kinky fun as an invitation to enact their misogyny and racism on your body. This in turn creates the perfect breeding ground for abuse, and this is precisely where the danger lies.  The impact of micro/macroaggression are magnified a thousand fold in bed (particularly when kinkiness is involved) as the necessity of physical and psychological vulnerability implicates a relationship based on trust. And when this is breached, the results are catastrophic.

Trust me, there’s nothing worse than being midway through the act, and having the dawning realisation that the guy who’s doing you doggy is calling you a “filthy slut” a little too enthusiastically. Or worse still, being tied up by a white guy who asks you to beg for your freedom “in your original language”. Suddenly, the fun of it evaporates, and you’re left in a compromising situation where you’re forced to evaluate whether or not the person you’re engaging with will harm you, or worse yet, if that’s their primary objective. Ultimately, I don’t have a snappy ending for this one. I’m still figuring it out. What I can provide below, however, is some practical advice that I wish I had had before commencing my kinky journey.

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Image by Mariel NO

  1. Find the right person

This is the most important piece of advice I can give. This will fundamentally be the hardest step because you need to find someone who offers non-performative “wokeness” and restraint. The last thing you want is some any man who gets carried away when you ask him to spit in your mouth. You need to be able to trust the person you’re getting kinky with, with the absolute confidence that they will not violate that trust. As for finding fellow kinky people, unfortunately it’s the luck of the draw. Some people will wanna kink it up with you and some won’t. That’s just life; keep it moving.

2. Work up to it

You’ve already got some crazy kinky fantasies? Great! But work up to them. Never jump straight in at the deep end. Start small and up the levels in stages that both of you are comfortable with and have agreed on. Before every session, make sure both of you know what the other wants and make your limits known. In turn, it becomes so much easier to consent, consent, consent. And there is nothing more beautifully erotic than consent.

3. Communication

Self-explanatory and vital. You should be able to talk through absolutely anything that you need to with your partner so that you both feel comfortable. When initiating a conversation about what you want in bed, the best thing to do is to be as direct as possible, even if that means you have to furiously avoid eye contact or pretend you’re not burning with embarrassment when you say it. Be very clear with what you want and expect from the person. Better to get the awkwardness out of the way now, so that it doesn’t rear its ugly head in bed.

4. Listen to your gut

If you’re feeling inexplicably weird about a certain kink you’re trying to introduce into the bedroom, listen to what you’re telling yourself, even if this realisation comes midway through the deed (it’s not that deep for either of you to bust a nut). If you’re feeling unsafe and overwhelmed, make sure you can trip the red button and shut things down immediately. You’re allowed and entitled to change your mind at any point. The person you’re getting down with should respect this, and if they don’t – put them in the bin. I’m being serious, get rid of them now. Your partner should never try and convince (read: coerce) you into doing something you don’t want to do.

5. Switch things up

So, you’ve already found your kink and you’re cool with it? Fantastic! But why not switch things up and spice up your life? For all you know you might like being dominant/submissive more than you like being submissive/dominant. Don’t just stick with getting choked because tumblr told you that it was cool, but slapping your partner in the face wasn’t. Live your truth.

6. Don’t be fooled

This is particularly for the submissive femmes out there: don’t be fooled by every idiot and their dad who claim to be “dominant” – particularly the men on tinder. More often than not the word “dominant” in someone’s bio is code for “lazy in bed”, “can’t be arsed to up my stroke game” or even “I’m not going to acknowledge, let alone touch your fanny but I want you to be doing Olympic Gold standard acrobatics on my dick, because you like to please people right?” Listen. I have these experiences so you don’t have to. Thank me later.

So, to all my women of colour out there, whether you are a seasoned freak or a newbie wanting to dip your toe into the weird and wonderful world of kink, always ensure that the absolute top priority is your physical and mental wellbeing.  Find someone that respects you and shares your political views so that role-play remains just that, and your sex-life offers you the space to explore your sexuality in a safe environment. Let’s be real, how are you expecting to lose yourself in the sweaty sweetness of the moment if you’re constantly opening your eyes mid-kiss to check what nonsense your partner is up to?