The New Radical: Sex as Activism

May 13, 2014 • Love & Sex


I only really started calling myself a feminist about three years ago, which seems a bit late. I spent high school being a misogynistic, closeted art student, thinking I was worse than everyone and believing that girls who didn’t hate themselves were bitches. I drew fat women when I myself was suffering with an eating disorder, trying to make myself see that all bodies were beautiful, even if I didn’t believe it. I felt worthless as a human and a failure as woman, and took my own self-loathing out on girls I wanted to sleep with and girls I was jealous of. The transformation from insufferable, pathetic know-it-all to intersectional feminist was radical. Now my identity, my passions, my interests are tied up in it. Feminism is where I go for debate and for agreement, to be pushed out of my comfort zone and to be comforted. Today, I can’t imagine any part of me without a feminist influence, and I can’t imagine not looking at the world through a feminist lens. But then, of course, there’s the sex, and what it means to be a feminist having it.

Here’s the history: Shortly after I started identifying as a feminist, I started having sex. It happened in this order: I got a girlfriend. I came out as a lesbian, then as queer. I started having sex. I saw the light. Eventually, the simple vanilla sex was not as exciting. We had explored each other’s bodies so often. It was time for something new. First, the names. “Degrade me in bed,” I’d think. And, like she read my mind, I became her little bitch. I loved being called names. Loved it. It was exhilarating. Of course, call me any of those names outside of the bedroom, and I’ll completely lose it. Call me a slut in bed, and I’m putty in your hands.

After some time, she started choking me. “Safe word ‘banana’,” She’d say, before her hand closed around my throat, and I felt the pressure. Why did I like it? I don’t normally like being constrained, but hands around my neck just felt right. I liked it in bed. It was a turn-on. I wanted more. I wanted to be hurt. I liked topping, but not as much as I liked being topped. The age-old trope rings true here: As a person who rarely likes to hand over control in my day-to-day life, being treated like, well, shit, in bed felt incredible to me. All I wanted was to be fucked like a bitch.

I don’t consider my sex to be anti-feminist, if that’s a thing. I’m comfortable calling myself a feminist before, during, and after I get called a slut in bed.

As a queer woman, my very existence is radical. I continue to exist despite the patriarchy, the heteronormative world that wants to push me– and people like me– down. However, being white and cis-gendered, I also have to acknowledge my privilege… I have been, in fact, very privileged. I can’t ignore it because it, too, ties hugely into who I am.

But my sex life is radical. My sex life is a form of activism. When I fuck, I feel nothing but empowered.

Is sex itself not a form of activism? Sex is political. The ’60s gave birth to what is now known as a radical sexual revolution: A social mindset that took over the Western world from the ’60s to the ’80s and attempted to challenge traditional behaviour that had become the social norm in sexuality. Youth were beginning to question what they had been taught, and to become liberated. And this liberation included not only questioning traditional, heterosexual, monogamous relationships, but to explore sexuality outside of those boundaries. Contraception– specifically, “the pill”– was becoming more and more widely used, and premarital sex, previously so frowned upon, was becoming more normalized. Abortion became legalized. Homosexuality, too, while still somewhat taboo in areas, was coming out a little more into the mainstream. For women, this meant that they could take back their sexuality and their bodies, and be free to admit that they really liked fucking all along– or that they didn’t.

As a sex-positive feminist, I don’t see how sex isn’t activist. Women–trans women, cis women, queer women, women of colour–taking control of their sexuality and talking about what we want, what we like. Sure, not all women are submissive, but some are, and ownership of that lust, that want, is activist. It is a way to speak out. My fucking is a form of activism.

I can’t speak for everyone, but to me, empowerment comes from within. Coming from a queer perspective, I consider my sex acts to be a “fuck you” to anyone who ever said shit about my girlfriend. Look where she is now: She’s in control. And if when we fuck, we can also talk about “making love,” then our big lesbian love is just another “fuck you” to the cishet white men who run the world. When I fuck my girlfriend, it’s a “fuck you” to every person who has ever said that gay people will burn in hell, to whoever tried to oppress us. The government does not belong in the bedrooms of the nation, but the fact that so many sex-positive women are taking steps to open their bedroom doors and to talk about their sex life is radical, is empowering.

I talk about fucking and being submissive because, to me, it feels like taking control. I think talking about sex is radical. I think being a queer woman speaking openly about wanting to be choked and called a slut in bed is radical. I make my choices in bed: I am submissive because I want to be, because I let myself be. I let myself be called a slut in bed because it feels good to me, and it feels good to my partner. She likes choking me a little, and I like to, too.

Taking back female sexuality is a very important step in taking back our space as women in the world. My view of fucking comes from my view of empowered sex: I honestly believe that any woman’s sexual choice– to dominate, to be submissive, to be versatile, and so on, and any seizure of a woman of anything that turns her on– is radical and empowering, and, if she chooses to talk about it, I believe it should be applauded.

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