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Feminism, Wicca, and D/s

Posted with the permission of the author

A young lady that I know of through friends recently “came out” of the BDSM closet to her Wiccan coven; she expected support, neutrality, possibly some resistance, and perhaps one or two insults. She wasn´t prepared in the least for the barrage of slander and criticism that she received. Accusations flew: that she wasn´t a real Wiccan, that she was dishonoring the sacred gift of sex, and that she was helping to undermine women´s lib. In brief, she was called a traitor. The end result is that she is embittered against Wicca, and has left her coven for good.

Ironically enough, her BDSM group supported her despite their prior bad experiences with “Wiccan players” who joined to get some kinky sex and nothing else.

I´ve come across a great deal of anti-BDSM sentiment in both the Wiccan and feminist communities, and I find this somewhat surprising considering that the major emphasis by both ideologies is a certain amount of freedom, both from unequal social expectations and from guilt about sexual expression.

Allow me to digress and attempt to explain both Wicca and women´s liberation. Please note that the below are MY interpretations of the two ideologies, and based on my understanding. If you desperately need to flame someone, flame me. I have excellent email blocking.

Wicca is a federally recognized religion that is based on pagan practices of old. There are various traditions. It was officially founded in the thirties by Gardner. In modern-day form, depending on the branch, it emphasizes balance and equality. Dianic Wicca is an offshoot of this and emphasizes female power as tied in with the goddess of old. They tend to be female, and while there are some males in the Dianic tradition, they tend to be more subservient and less emphasized. A great many wiccans believe that females have a deeper tie to the goddess, and neglect the god principle entirely due to anti-Christian angst and hostility towards “patriarchal oppression”.

Women´s lib began in the 1960´s in reaction to growing discontent about social inequality of wages, expectations, and sexual acceptability. While it was acceptable, for instance, for a man to enjoy sex or extramarital affairs, even gaining social status from his peers, a woman who admitted to enjoying sex, rather than viewing it as a chore to be done once a month and ignored the rest of the time, would be ostracized and insulted. A man could make a living wage working outside the home, while a woman was lucky (somewhat) if she could find a job at all. The aim of women´s lib was, originally, to be freed from inequality and experience some FREEDOM.

Every apple tree produces slightly “off” fruit from time to time, though. Women´s lib was misinterpreted: Rather than enjoying heterosexual sex, some libbers would say, view it as a tool of patriarchal society. To be a true libber, you must only experience sexual joys with your sisters in arms. Sexual freedom is only acceptable within boundaries that we draw. Female superiority was often brought up, rather than female equality, and further distorted the movement. Heterosexuality was acceptable so long as the male was subservient, and the woman dominant. All this and more served to make some people hostile towards women´s lib; for example, Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads made the term “feminazis” popular. Libbers are now often viewed as hairy-legged man-hater lesbians who refused to acknowledge their femininity.

In the efforts to become less oppressed, both Wicca and feminism seem to have become self-repressing. Women are no longer allowed to express joy in the complex pleasure of heterosexual intercourse (again!), and God(s) FORBID that a woman should submit to a male! They seem to have lost sight of the fact that part of the Wiccan attraction is less guilt, not more. They seem to have lost sight of the fact that part of women´s liberation was to gain sexual freedom, both of act and expression, without censure from either peers or outsiders. We should be allowed to say “no”, allowed to say “yes”, allowed to scream “YES YES YES!!!!” Understanding has been lost and replaced by judgmental criticism.

I myself have been witness and privy to this sort of hostility: I am a regular online chat presence in Domination/submission rooms and we are regularly treated to a parade of people, male and female, who misunderstand the lifestyle and try to “free” us or call us traitors due to the fact that we give up control. YES… that control was hard-fought for, but isn´t part of sexual equality having the choice to give UP that control, should that be what pleases us, gives us pleasure, and satisfies our inner cravings?

There are a great many people who view D/s as non-consensual and as license to abuse. They neglect to realize that online, we can turn off the computer, and offline, the D/s community actively polices itself, attempting to bar abusers who forget that the keywords of the lifestyle are “Safe, Sane and Consensual”… not to mention the fact that we do not have to enter the D/s lifestyle in the first place if we don´t wish to!

I met, and married, and had a child with my Master. I have never regretted it, even when times are hard and I am ostracized for having kinky sex. All sex is holy, whether it´s Tantric, done in a stone circle, or involves leather. The only “sin” involved in sex, any sex, is dishonesty and the use of the act to hurt in a non-consensual manner. My openness about my part in the lifestyle is necessary in my view to win it any acceptance at all… even if it´s just to be left alone. We are harassed by the police who have a poor image of the lifestyle and too much power for their own good sometimes, judges who view us with hostility and encourage our peers to view us as monsters, and the media who is less interested in honesty rather than sensationalism. Those who fight for freedom need to caution themselves against becoming inquisitors; the rack is for pleasurable torment now, not for attempts to change people into someone you can freely accept with no mental effort on your part.

If women´s liberation or Wicca insists on holding the view that sexual freedom does not include the freedom to choose slavery, theses two ideologies become no better than the societal mores they were founded to fight in the first place; in actuality, they´re worse, because they preach freedom and pretend to superiority that they don´t practice. There is every bit as much freedom in being a heterosexual female slave as being a lesbian Mistress; understanding this is the key to becoming a true women´s libber, or an honest wiccan.

© copyright 2002 by Rowan Ste. Julian. All rights reserved.

Webmaster's Note: For another perspective on a related topic, read Sado-masochistic Ritual in a Thelemic Context by Raven Greywalker (Lilith)