When I was twenty, I met my first dominant in person. I was extremely excited and nervous about this because for months before meeting in person, we had talked a great deal through emails, online chatting services, and phone calls. The weekend he and I had planned to meet was over Memorial Day weekend. This caused a bit of a conundrum for me. That same weekend I was meeting the dominant, my friends were having a huge three-day barbecue and welcome home party for a friend who had just spent almost two months in the hospital. There was no way I was missing the meeting with him, yet I hated to ditch my friends, especially since I couldn’t come out and tell them the reason why I was ditching them. I figured I would join in late on the festivities after he had left and deal with being in the dog house with my friends.

Well, the visit with the dominant didn’t last quite as long as we both had expected, which was okay. I received and greatly enjoyed my first taste of pain and was able to spend some more time with my friends, which would mean they would give me less of an inquisition if I didn’t miss as much of the party. I was wrong. As soon as I showed up, the questions started. Where was I? Who was I with? What was I doing? Who out there was more important to me than them? I tried for as long as I could to fight off the questions, which wasn’t very long. I finally broke down and told them about venturing into the BDSM lifestyle.

As I explained to them how I had spent the previous day and night with a dominant that I had been talking online with for the past six months, they just stared at me, all flabbergasted. Those looks intensified as I pulled my leather and metal spiked collar out of my purse to show them. The moments after sharing my story, there was this uncomfortable silence until one of my female friends spoke up. She told me I should be ashamed of myself for allowing a man to degrade and humiliate me in such a way, for lowering my standards in such a way that I’m allowing myself to be controlled by a man, and most of all, “for single-handedly setting back the women’s rights movement by twenty years”.

That last statement spoken by my friend has always stuck with me. By voluntarily choosing to submit to a man, I am solely responsible for moving the women’s movement back twenty years. This has also made me think about all that is going on in the world with feminism and women’s rights.With the presidential election finishing up last November and the biggest hot button topic of the election being women’s reproductive rights and equality, also all the women’s movements going on around the world such as the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, FEMEN(a feminist group in eastern Europe who uses nudity in their demonstrations), and other countries where women have to struggle to vote, receive education, and hold a job. With all of these events taking place around the world, I started thinking about what most feminists think of women who are involved in the lifestyle.

I know there are plenty of feminists out there who believe that BDSM is just another way for the members of the opposite sex to suppress women. That the lifestyle promotes and encourages violence against women. That women are objectified and reduced to nothing more than living sex toys for a man’s carnal desire. That the stereotype that women are only supposed to stay home and be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen is perpetuated by the practice of the lifestyle. I’m sure there is a lot more they say, and it’s probably not as nicely put as above. That’s how they think, and they are welcome to their opinion and they’re also welcome to realize that I fully disagree with those who feel this way. The other side to this argument that there is nothing belittling or degrading about being in a BDSM relationship. That being in the lifestyle is just another form of sexual expression and there’s nothing wrong with expressing one’s sexuality, no matter how that way may be; that it is the female’s choice to live that kind of life and if she considers her life to be fulfilled by serving another, more power to her.

I know that being a feminist means different things to different people. To me, feminism has always been about having the right to choose to lead the kind of life that I want to. If I want to climb the corporate ladder and bring home the bacon, then I want to be able to without judgment. If I feel more comfortable being naked and kneeling at the feet of the man *I* choose to submit to, then I want to do so without judgment. Do I enjoy being objectified by my Master? Yes, I do or else He wouldn’t do it. Do I enjoy being humiliated and degraded by my Master during a scene? Yes, I do or He wouldn’t do it. Do I enjoy being reduced to a living sex toy for my Master’s carnal desires? Why yes I do. Just because I choose to submit to my Master doesn’t make me any less of a female or a human being than the other who chooses to climb the corporate ladder and run a company. I do not see myself weak for knowing what I need to make me happy in life and for having the courage and strength to go after that happiness just because my happiness isn’t the same as someone else.

Feminism is about celebrating the female spirit, bonding with one another, supporting one another, and having the right to choose the path that’s right for you. To me, every woman who does this is a feminist and there is nothing wrong with being a feminist and being in the lifestyle.