As I've mentioned a few times both here and on my personal blog, this last year found me struggling a great deal with my punishment kink. Some of the concerns have been lingering beneath the surface since I first started exploring my spanking fetish. Others have developed more recently. In the end, however, it all came down to four little words: but I miss it. There's a certain buzz I get from the profound vulnerability that comes with the punishment kink and the intimacy that vulnerability produces is nothing less than amazing.
I started chipping away at all these issues in one post but eventually realized that, even if I managed to write said post (which kept feeling more and more unwieldly), nobody would ever actually read it because it would be too damn long. ;) So, I finally decided that it would be more manageable to write and read if I broke it up into a series of posts.
The first issue is one that has been a more recent question as the beginning of the year found me connecting with my inner Appalled Feminist.
It's taken having a debilitating chronic illness and clashing with the Church regarding my first long term relationship to appreciate the level of oppression women not only have suffered throughout human history, but continue to suffer today, albeit most often in far more subtle forms. Most of that oppression is in the form of guilt and shame about our bodies, our spirituality, our work, our sexuality, our family responsibilities, our clothes, and a bazillion other things. Frankly, I just got tired of carrying around the guilt and shame. Of constantly believing all the "you should be doing this" and "you shouldn't be doing that." Last winter I finally came to a point where I simply decided I just wasn't going to feel guilt or shame anymore. Momentary regret, perhaps. But only insofar as it helped me think about how I might do something differently. Yet, how do you have a punishment fetish when you don't feel guilt and shame?
Now, feminism in and of itself does not present a problem as having a punishment fetish is not necessarily gender specific. There are women who spank men. There are men who fantasize about being spanked by men (though they apparently don't blog about it). There are women who spank women, including on this very blog. Yet overwhelmingly it's men spanking women. Again, not necessarily a problem. Except that my Appalled Feminist can't ever completely divorce the thousands of years of misogynist baggage that has accumulated along the way when I read anything related to Domestic Discipline, especially when at times it descends into true misogyny.
Most of the time it's the stereotypes that bother my Appalled Feminist. The endless sagas of women who are routinely bitchy and thoughtless and need to be somehow tamed and structured by their always emotionally-stable and efficient husbands (because women never multi-task or have a reason to be bitchy, right?). Or the paternalistic and condescending discourse in which women have to be taught what is safe or proper or considerate as if they are eternal children incapable of figuring out those issues like other adults.
The point of feminism, of course, is to allow women to make choices about what's best for them. But what if, my Appalled Feminist asks, some women have so internalized a patriarchal construct of women that they continue to make choices that perpetuates oppression? What if I have so internalized that construct that it's affected my sexuality?
I don't always have good answers for the questions my Appalled Feminist asks. But I have been able to help her reconcile herself to my punishment fetish by explaining a few things.
The punishment kink is about taking bad habits that everybody has whether they be men, women, tops, bottoms or switches and allowing yourself to be very vulnerable regarding this habit in a way that provides sexual synergy for both the top and the bottom.
In the punishment kink both partners (or at least it should be both) knowingly create a construct in which one is in a position of authority over the other that provides that emotional and sexual buzz.
On some level my sexuality expresses itself as a child in need of a parent. That doesn't mean that I am a child. If I was, this whole construct would be entirely inappropriate.
Within this construct we speak and act in ways that would be cruel and unfair outside of the construct. Nobody ever really deserves to be hit with a hairbrush or forced to hold a bar of soap in his or her mouth (in fact, I'm always creeped out when someone will ask me if I deserved to be punished). But when we say we deserved it or our partner whacks us with a rattan cane, we are fully aware that we are acting within the construct we have chosen and actively participated in constructing.
On some level, guilt can also (and maybe even instead of) produce arousal or excitement, especially when connected to punishment, instead of just shame.
And ultimately that -- women having control over guilt and shame -- is a profoundly feminist act.