I am a feminist polar bear.

There are some complications with that statement. For starters, I am male; I was born with a penis, and I am rather quite attached to it. Apart from being male, I am also, through the privilege of birth, white and tall (as polar bears often are; well, the white and tall bit, anyway – the male part is still pretty much a 50/50 shot).

I am also a kinky, feminist polar bear. Or – fully qualified – I am a kinky, feminist polar bear in a loving relationship with a woman who enjoys tying me to the bed and spanking me on occasions. And I fully support her right to do so, notwithstanding the benefits that I also happen to derive from that arrangement.

I wouldn’t have thought that I needed to make this statement. I would have thought (or hoped), 50 years on, that feminism was alive and well and making perfectly good progress, thank you very much. Until I came across a comment on Twitter that said, “For the record, I have not felt safe being a feminist. Not ever.” Which pretty much floored me.

Not that I live under a rock. I recognize that the glass ceiling still exists, that there is still income disparity, that currently women are proportionally under-represented as heads of state, heads of corporations and members of boards of directors. I also recognize that there are many men in the world that view women’s role as being barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen (and that this could be considered the polite form of expressing this sentiment). Misogyny still exists, and there are those that are – or choose to be – wilfully ignorant. Or just ignorant.

At the same time, the cultural attitudes toward women – their role, their potential and their inherent, awesome value – has also evolved enormously in five decades. It still has room to go, no question. But big changes have also been made, and I hope to see – and continue to support – this continuing. I would have thought, entering as we are the second decade of the twenty-first century, that feminism was a given, and I’m saddened to see that I’m wrong in that regard.

Another comment also floored me yesterday (and normally I don’t floor that easily). Meghan Murphy, the blogger whose posting I in part critiqued over the weekend, retorted in response to a criticism of her post “Since when are feminists supposed to be into BDSM and pro porn?” (private conversation, publicly visible on Twitter). Really? Why can’t they be? They don’t have to be, certainly. But by the same token, since when were feminists supposed to be anti-BDSM and anti-porn?

One argument, and it is, I suspect, the one that Murphy was trying to make in her original post, is that BDSM, and porn, are additional tools by which men assert their power and control over women. In that regard, so is the missionary position. Pushing further, there are feminists that will argue that the existence of BDSM and porn (and the missionary position?) are contextually embedded constructs that subconsciously reinforce the misogynistic, patriarchal nature of our society. And I am quite sure that there are any number of examples that can be lined up and trotted out to illustrate that point. At the same time, all of this presumes the man in the dominant role and the woman in the submissive one. It also presumes that a woman cannot choose to be submissive of her own free will, in the context of a sexual relationship, and still be a strong, confident, capable woman in her own right.

Speaking personally, I am a submissive(ish) male who has – in fantasy and reality – enjoyed the prospect of a woman in the dominant position. I am in a loving relationship (and have been for nearly twenty years) with a woman who is (much) more than happy to tie me up and spank me, and have her way with me in whatever other way she might fancy. That doesn’t mean that I am her inferior, or that out of the bedroom she is in control of my actions or my behaviour. Even in the bedroom we negotiate and discuss our wants and our preferences, what works and what does not. In the rest of our lives we are also equals, and we share our lives, our dreams and our passions. What we do, and how we do it, is not exclusively about what I want, or about what she wants – it is a growing, evolving dialogue of what we both collectively choose.

As someone that is kinky, I am also engaged with a larger community of people who have embraced their kink in the many and varied forms in which it exists, and in which they define it. I know submissive men, and dominant ones; I know submissive and dominant women, also. I know people that embrace those labels, and also those who struggle with them as not really capturing the dynamic that they embody. The vast majority enjoy porn, some written and some visual. Many produce porn as well, whether as author, photographer or video producer (or performer). In doing so, they do not view this as compromising their identify, giving up their power or compromising their position in society. In fact, for many it is quite the opposite.

The vast majority of kinky women that I know (submissive or other) identify themselves as feminist, and the vast majority of kinky men that I know are sensitive, considerate, respectful and altogether appreciative of the women in their lives. They are intelligent, they are engaged and they are considerate. While knowing their own preferences, they are the people I know that are most likely to respect and tolerate the preferences of others. They are, to a person, able to separate the fantasy of their sexuality from the reality of their own lives; for some, their sexuality is front and centre; for others, and I number myself amongst them, their sexuality is only one aspect of a larger identity. I am kinky, and embrace the fact that I am; the fact that I am kinky does not define me, nor does it define (or limit) the activities and ambitions I hold, or the career I pursue.

I believe that it is a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body, her mind and her emotions. If she chooses to engage in kinky activiites, and submit to another person (man, woman or polar bear) then that is her right. If she chooses to dominate another, that, too, is her right. If she likes to switch it up on different days or with different partners, then that is her right as well. Provided that all partners consent to the relationship and to the actions within that relationship, and assuming that all partners are finding pleasure and satisfaction, then there is – and should be – nothing wrong with this choice.

Moreover, it is also a woman’s choice NOT to engage in BDSM, in kink, or in anything else that might come under the umbrella of ‘alternative sexual choices’. There is nothing any more wrong with straight-up missionary position sex than there is with full-on kink. Whatever provides two (or more) partners pleasure, expressed with affection and love (if not good, old fashioned lust), then that is their choice, and I support them in doing it.

My point is that a woman should have the right to choose whatever relationship, orientation or activity (sexual or otherwise) she wishes, without that choice being viewed as political; or worse, without that choice being viewed as antithetical to someone else’s political agenda. What we do in our own bedrooms – provided that it is consensual, and preferably that it is safe and sane as well – should be our own business.

It has been nearly 45 years since Pierre Trudeau said that, “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” If the can state accept that, perhaps everyone else should as well.