09/20/2014 10:16 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:01 EDT

I Can Be a Feminist and Watch Submissive Porn

The first time I watched porn was in a college dorm room surrounded by seven other first-time- away-from-home freshmen. We giggled at the sight of the nudity, the cheesy saxophone music, the awkward dialogue. We felt a small thrill at watching something our parents would have banned. Was anyone turned on? If they were, they weren't apt to admit it.

Porn is described as a "man's world," "chauvinistic," and "exploitive." When it came to my own exploration in the world of porn -- a lonely, frustrating night when my own imagination just wasn't doing the trick -- these words rolled through my head as I set my browser to private view.

A novice to the world of porn, I started with a simple Google search. When that brought me to videos and photos of men ejaculating into women's faces and girls being hogtied, I quickly started my search anew and typed "porn for women." This led me down a rabbit-hole of what I can only describe as stereotypical feminist porn. Most of the sites were fictional narratives written the way someone would expect Jane Austen to write a sex scene. Even the videos were fairly tame, mostly clothed, and just plain boring.

I went back to the hardcore sites; the ones where women were being tied up, the men allowed to do what they wanted to them. Women bound to beds, hanging by their wrists from the ceiling, gagged and unable to speak. I felt a mixture of horror and disgust and a feeling I wasn't expecting: arousal.

I began diving deeper and deeper into these sites, searching words like "bondage" and "submission." I was alone in my apartment, but I felt the eyes of all my female friends and strong feminist idols upon me, judging me, telling me that what I was watching was wrong. And the fact that I was getting aroused? Sinful. I imagined Margaret Thatcher slapping me across the face and revoking my feminist card.

What does one do when the thing that turns her on is so fiercely contradictory to her everyday morals? Here I was, a self-proclaimed, loud and proud feminist, daring society to not see me as an equal, to not give me equal pay, to think they had more right to my body than I do. I walk around with "I am woman, hear me roar!" practically tattooed on my forehead. And yet I was turned on by the act of being submissive to (and at the very mercy of) a man. A cloud of shame formed over my bed every time I set my browser to Private.

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I tried to come up with a way to give these images and videos a feminist spin: She's only being tied up because she wants to be tied up. She's in control here and the guy(s) are only doing what her sexual fantasy desires. It didn't help. A thousand doubts flooded my mind about my own beliefs. Did this mean I secretly wanted a husband to submit to? Did I not want to strive to be at the top of my field? Did I want society to tell me what I could and could not do with my body?

No. I wanted none of that. I still wanted the right to choose whether or not to have a child. I wanted to be respected for my thoughts and opinions and not be dismissed as "just a bitch" if I was ever too adamant. I was still annoyed when someone referred to poor physical form as "girl push-ups" or "a girly throw." I wanted to be equal to men in society and in the workforce and not be judged if I chose to not have children. I was still a staunch feminist even if my libido wasn't.

I finally voiced my concerns to a close friend. Again, angry Margaret Thatcher rolled through my head. I waited for my friend to tell me I was sick and that these urges were wrong. Instead she said that my arousal made some sense. It's the things that feel "wrong" and "dirty," she said, that can turn us on the most. It's because they are so taboo that they can bring the greatest thrill.

She said that for someone who lives their life being strong and independent, perhaps the thrill for me was shedding that self and becoming the exact opposite in bed. It didn't mean I was any less of a feminist or that I was spitting in the face of all womanhood. It just meant that I was human, I had urges, and to put it simply, what turns you on, turns you on. And besides, didn't I want to be treated equal to men? If a man didn't need to feel ashamed for watching this type of porn, should I just because I am a woman?

No, I shouldn't. I like to believe Margaret Thatcher would agree.

By Georgia Knapp

The Purple Fig is an online women's blogazine with an emphasis on realistic and inspiring personal stories from women of all age groups, lifestyles, and nationalities. We feature essays about parenting, the journey to womanhood, feminism, overcoming challenges in both career and personal life, and issues surrounding sexuality, relationships, and family life. This is where women go to be inspired by the knowledge they are never alone.

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