When you’re a feminist, everyday life is better. You make better decisions. You have better relationships. You don’t sweat the small stuff - what once seemed so important now feels so trivial. But most importantly, the sex is so much better...
Sure, the world can seem a darker place when your eyes are opened to the facts that women still only earn 80p to a man’s £1; one in four women will be victims of domestic violence in the UK; and some women are even still refused contraception or an abortion. As Gloria Steinem said, ‘the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.’ The statistics are shocking and difficult to deny, which is why it is so important that feminism is kept alive, in one form or another. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Feminism isn’t all about fighting to right these injustices, smashing glass-ceilings and campaigning for equality, there are some seriously seductive and truly tempting benefits.
Feminists love their bodies. In a society that tells women that they are not good enough, accepting and liking the way you look can be a rebellious and revolutionary act, with sexy repercussions. A feminist woman spends less time worrying about how her breasts look or trying to hide her cellulite with the duvet, and more time focusing on being in the moment and having fun. She knows what she wants and has the confidence to ask for it. Equally, she knows what she is not comfortable with and would not feel pressured into doing something that she would not enjoy. Jessica Valenti, founder of feministing.com and writer of many books on the topic, including ‘Full Frontal Feminism’ and ‘The Purity Myth’, says ‘Feminists do it better. Sorry, we just do. It makes sense - when you don't have to feel guilty, slutty or ashamed, when you feel free to have sex entirely on your own terms, it tends to be much more enjoyable.’ So much for that myth that feminists hate sex.
Feminists are also likely to be more open-minded in the bedroom, freed from inhibitions and the patriarchal nonsense that they were fed from a young age: that they are pretty, pure, dainty little things that ought not to have any power, nor strong sexual urges, and should keep their legs crossed until their 18th birthday, or else be labelled a slut. Any smart woman can see that it is a totally unfair double standard that when a woman behaves in the exact same way as a man and sleeps with whomever she chooses, she is a slut, but he is a stud. Feminists are liberated from these social hypocrisies, and realise that it is only counter-productive to call a fellow woman a ‘slut’, because it is her choice to do as she pleases.
However, some of the more extreme sexual practices she might partake in could been as contradictory to her feminist principles. Is it hypocritical to demand equal rights and fight the patriarchy by day, then submit to male domination by night? Is radical feminism mutually exclusive with radical sex?
Self-professed feminist Tina Richardson, told me that no, the two are not contradictory: ‘Feminism should empower a woman to feel as though she can embrace her desires, whatever they may be, and give her the strength to fulfill them.’ For Tina, feminism liberates her and gives her more confidence in the bedroom. But do her feminist principles mean that she should automatically dominate her partner? ‘Personally, being sexually submissive sometimes is not anti-feminist. I happen to enjoy being told what to do, but it is not degrading, nor does it mean that I want to be walked all over in day-to-day life. Being tied up or blind-folded occasionally does not compromise my right to seek advancement, empowerment and equality.’ Tina also pointed out that looks can be deceiving, and that she is the one who holds all of the power: ‘I may feel powerless, but ultimately, it is me who has the last say. There are code words and boundaries, so we only do what I feel comfortable with.’
It strikes me as yet another sexual double standard that women wish to express themselves sexually, society deems in inappropriate, but when a man seeks out a dominatrix, his status as a powerful man is not questioned. Feminism exists to break down these hypocrisies and to empower women. Feminism encourages women to make informed, considered decisions. It can not, however, dictate what these decisions are, just that women are making them for the right reason: their own personal pleasure.