Fetish, or Patriarchy?

Trigger Warning: Sexual Content

The past couple months it has started to bother me that I only masturbate to images of male-dominated heterosexual intercourse. I get off on the idea of men who are dominant, aggressive, and sometimes abusive. Although I identify as a pansexual, have fallen in love with men and women, and am a survivor of sexual assault, there has always been an obsession I’ve had with male dominance. It has always been my fetish. Power, in terms of age, also was a fetish of mine since I was 16. I would fantasize about having sex with men who were in their seventies. In high school, I would crush on my teachers and on my friend’s dads. And when I turned 18, I started to have relationships with men who were at least twice my age but often these relationships quickly became abusive.

I understand that in our society, because of porn and media, we are fed sex as a male-dominated activity fetishized with power, control, and pedophilia culture; with young, shaved, and submissive women with disproportional bodies. Sex in our society is often defined as heterosexual intercourse; that comes from the type of old school idea of sex for reproduction. Sex in our society is also male-centered and surrounds the penis; to the amount of women that would go down on men than vice versa, to viagra, from the idea that the bigger the penis the better (which by the way couldn’t be further from the truth), the penis somehow becomes the center piece in the bedroom and even the center of our patriarchal society.

For most of my sexually active years, the fact that I have gotten off when I masturbate on this social construction of sex and fetishization of power has not bothered me. I thought I was innately sexually attracted to men, and even if my fetishes were socially conditioned, there was no harm of utilizing the patriarchy for my own benefit, right? But what if my desire for men and dominance isn’t as innate as I thought? After all, I have been fed my whole life these ideas about sex and most of my experience have fallen under the categories of sexual abuse or male-centered sex. And as I started to have feelings for women, It became more confusing to sort out why the idea of male-domination turned me on so much. Perhaps if I’ve mostly only had sex in this context, it would make sense psychologically to recognize sexual pleasure with images of heterosexual intercourse and male-dominated sex, right? I have begun to realize that my sexual desires are more internalized and socially constructed than I previously acknowledged. What would be a better way to sexually suppress women than to internalize desire for male-domination? Kudos to the patriarchy on that one!

Desiring this type of sex has also felt quite contradicting and confusing as a feminist, sexual assault survivor, and as a pansexual. Wouldn’t being sexually assaulted would maybe make me revolt dominance? But it hasn’t. I have also experienced tons of frustration and anger from my experience of male-centered and unsatisfying sex that never brought me to my potential; but what I masturbated to and my role-playing always seemed like a completely separate thing, perhaps because they were under my control.

This internal struggle I’ve had with my discomfort around my desire for domination, really resonated when I read the short story “Coming a Part” about a black couple by Alice Walker. The husband is caught by his wife masturbating to magazines of images of degraded and submissive white women. The wife is offended and disturbed that this is what pleases her husband. She then goes on to quote Audre Lorde and some of their disturbing past as African Americans including the treatment of African American women. The degradation of white women is attractive in the black man’s eyes because it symbolizes his social status and his equality to the white man. The wife explains how white-black power relations are essential to commodifying and sexually exploited black and white women’s bodies in the magazines he looks at. It is only when these ideas seen in his magazines are deconstructed, the husband starts to feel uncomfortable and question why he is turned on by a submissive white women. After some time a part, he is able to come back with understanding of their history, and is able to make love to his wife as opposed to the image of a degraded woman in his magazine.

So if I understand the reality of the society I live in, and how it exposits and dominates young women’s bodies, how can I still struggle to de-internalize my desire?

I have read plenty of articles that say there is nothing wrong with having fetishes around power and domination, as long as your are in a healthy relationship and it is your choice. However, I don’t think this is always the case, especially if you are not satisfied with your sex life. We do not live in a vacuum. Our internalized and socially conditioned desires comes out in the bedroom and vice versa. Although I can get off on the thought of it, in reality I have been dissatisfied with my sex life with the men I sought out much older than me, with my role-playing, and with male centered sex, even when I have been in love. It is the hyper-sexualized and commodified idea of power and male dominance/control sold to me by society and the media that turns me on. Even though I am well educated in feminist theory and sexuality studies, it took me about six years to come to this realization of how much my desire for domination is internalized and how it had hurt my sex life. I think what it comes down to is creating a different way of making love, completely outside what I’ve experienced, so perhaps then my mind and body can redefine the context of my sexual desire. And undoing my internalized desire is a journey I have yet to explore.

by Kayla

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