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CHANGE MY MIND: Should Modern Women Feel Empowered by S&M Porn?

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With the recent popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James -- a book which focuses on the relationship between a recent college graduate, and a young businessman with a sexual penchant for BDSM -- people are asking themselves whether this is a topic that empowers the modern woman, or is a fantasy which promotes their degradation and exploitation.

Are ropes, chains and handcuffs in the bedroom the literal shackles of sexism? Or do they represent an enlightened sense of self and choice amongst modern women?

Should we, as a society, accept this particular fetish as being a powerful tool for women to assert themselves today, or should we stand in opposition to it, and denounce it as not only a patriarchal construct, but a violent and demeaning one as well?

Erika Lust, an award-winning erotic director and writer, and Dawn Hawkins, executive director of Porn Harms and Morality in Media, wrestle over the issue below. Who changes your mind?


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Modern women should feel empowered by S&M pornography.

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Who makes the better argument?

Erika Lust Erotic Film Director and Author

Answering this question is not a matter of delving into the psychology of desire, or the appeal of BDSM. As with all matters of sexuality, so much of understanding the "why" behind sexual practices, orthodox, or otherwise, can be boiled down to simple personal preference. Regardless of what kind of sexual preferences are expressed, a positive portrayal of female sexuality is certainly empowering -- for the individual viewer, and the modern woman alike.

For so long, female sexuality has been closeted, misinterpreted, or just badly projected: the effects of which women feel every day. Relationships, media, social custom, even pornography all shape, excite, and represent sexuality in various ways. If a woman finds something that feels good, and natural for her, she should be congratulated for successfully navigating all of this confusing input society feeds her about sexuality, not condemned, or shamed for it! There has been enormous progress in the acceptance of women's sexuality in a vanilla sense, so why doesn't this extend to the kinkier stuff? Can't we just agree that women getting-off, in whatever form this takes, is a great thing?

There has been a lot of recent media attention regarding BDSM; its portrayal in erotica, and the modern woman's reaction to it. The majority of this coverage seemed to either express surprise that a controversial, sexual subject could be consumed so voraciously by women, or else dissected the relationship between BDSM, and feminism (usually with the conclusion that they are incompatible). The implication here is of course that "modern women" shouldn't be enticed by something that may involve dominant, and submissive roles. But the essence of being a woman in today's society is the ability to exercise choice concerning the direction of her life, and in this case, her sex-life.

Being an intelligent, contemporary woman, and enjoying BDSM in one's private life are not mutually exclusive, nor should they in any way offend feminist sensibilities. The common perception of these practices is that they are harmful to a person's physical, and moral integrity. While this might be true were the acts limited to the realm of unfair treatment, when considered as a temporary exchange of power roles by consenting adults, then there is no integrity lost, and often great pleasure and intimacy are gained. One must also take into consideration that the pleasure gained by this type of sexual practice isn't grounded in simple male-female hierarchy, since the roles are entirely dependent on personality, and not gender.

For many people, the appeal in BDSM is control -- either exercising or relinquishing it. Even if one can't appreciate this in a sexual context, most have revelled in this kind of experience in some way or another: finding control in micro-managing a project at work, or letting it go on the dance floor with a drink after a stressful week. This same sense of regaining, or releasing control is only made taboo due to a sexual component.

If women can feel safe in exploring these kinds roles in the bedroom, especially now that the discourse is more widespread, that speaks volumes about progress in the realm of sexual equality. It takes a lot of trust to enact those kinds of fantasies, regardless of the role, which good BDSM erotica, and porn will demonstrate. At the very least, women can feel empowered in the realization of these fantasies: the recognition of them, exploration, pursuit and pleasure of sexual fulfillment.

The real root of this issue, unfortunately prevalent in so much of the discourse of female sexuality, is shame. Is it taboo for women to speak about sexual preferences? As a general rule, perhaps not, but certainly when speaking about preferences which might be regarded as unorthodox. And if shame is taken out of the equation, there will be no need for women to wonder whether they can be feminists, and enjoy BDSM images, or practices. In utilizing good erotica -- and porn of all varieties -- to further educate and inspire on the subject of female sexuality and its expression, we can only further empower women to enjoy their bodies, and their sex-lives.



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Modern women should feel empowered by S&M pornography.


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