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Should I feel guilty for enjoying degrading sex?

(70 Posts)
Georgia1987 Mon 08-Aug-11 01:35:21

Hi everyone,

This is my first post here and I joined because it looks like you have a really good forum here for feminist debate. I registered to ask a question and I'm a bit worried it's not the type of thing people would ask on here or not, but here goes. Sorry if it's too long!

I've been watching porn since I was about 12 and masturbating frequently to it, and grew up thinking I had a healthy sex drive. I got my first boyfriend at 20 and we clicked in every way, he's feminist too (he knows way more about it than I do).

Both in person and in bed I'm submissive, and when aroused my instinct is always to be degraded and I can't help viewing myself through that 'male lens', basically living vicariously through what my boyfriend is experiencing as I'm doing/having things done to me. My boyfriend's always made sure I'm 100% ok with things before he does them, and has admitted that sometimes he feels uncomfortable when he thinks about what he does to me out of context, but at the time he admits how much he loves it. He barely watches any porn, only when I do if he's with me, and I've watched less since becoming sexually active as it's suddenly more "real" to me and I find more of it disturbing.

We've tried me being in power or simply just making love, but I find it really hard to become properly aroused, and when I do I automatically go into "use me!" mode sad I've started to feel guilty all the time because of it and I don't know where many feminists stand on this issue. I also don't want to start subconsciously resenting my boyfriend sad

Please, any opinions at all would be great!!

snowmama Mon 08-Aug-11 07:21:24

Mmm. When I first read this thread I thought 'oh god I hope this isnt true'. Not because you have done anything terrible, but because the idea of a woman (or anyone) having their sexuality shaped from the age of 12 by porn sounds very damaging and the thought of it made made me flinch...

I can't tell you what to feel or think, and definately am not say your sexuality is wrong per se....but I would encourage you to think about the following:

1. It is no surprise that you see yourself through the male lens if you have been watching porn for 8 years plus from a young age...if I suggested to stop watching, how would you feel...

2. I have no idea how you would unpick what is naturally your sexuality and what is learnt....but what are you feeling guilty about, what would you resent your boyfriend for....Is it worth exploring what your negative feelings are telling you?

3. There is nothing inherently wrong with being submissive. My challenge to you ( as it was to a good friend of mine recently, who is a hopeless romantic obsessed with all things wedding and marriage related), is ' how much of it, do you think may be due to external conditioning' ?

HerBeX Mon 08-Aug-11 12:11:28

I don't think you need to feel guilt about this, your sexuality has been formed from watching porn as a child (an act of abuse actually, that you were allowed to watch it) and that's what has formed your sexual framework.

Rather than feeling guilty about it, I'd suggest you read Pornland and other books by Gail Dines and feminist writers who can talk about porn, and that you watch Hardcore and read some of the survivor stories.

It's very hard to re-programme your sexuality, just as it's hard to re-programme your parenting attitudes and responses. But if you really want to, it's not impossible. Guilt isn't the best means though - education is.

CaptainNancyBlackett Mon 08-Aug-11 14:46:09

Sheesh, your boyfriend should feel guilty for getting sexually aroused by degrading you during sex, and the pornographers who created material that you were exposed to when you were a young child should be feeling guilty too.

It's not your guilt because it's not always women's fault. Sometimes men who harm women and girls just have to step up to the fucking plate instead of letting women shoulder the burden for all their crap.

Also if your boyfriend gets sexually excited and has orgasms through sexually degrading you, he is not a feminist if that word is to have any meaning. Rather than subconciously, try consciously resenting him because he sounds like he deserves it. smile

solidgoldbrass Tue 09-Aug-11 16:34:02

I think you would find it a lot more helpful to discuss this somewhere like Informed Consent, where there are plenty of feminists who are also into BDSM. There is one school of thought that people who have had past bad experiences with sex sometimes find it helpful to experiment with BDSM as a way of reframing and reclaiming the experience by re-enacting it safely. BDSM, when engaged in with decent people, is also a kind of 'safe scare' like a rollercoaster ride, intense physical and mental stimulation.
As to the situation with your current BF, the best way to assess whether it's healthy or not is to consider how he treats you when you are not engaged in sex - is he kind, supportive, good company, respectful of you? If so then it's fine. If not you may need to do some more thinking and talking it through.

Oh, BTW you will get a fair few squawky posts from people who are basically ignorant about BDSM, don't let them upset you.

solidgoldbrass Tue 09-Aug-11 16:35:38

CaptainNancy - just had to call you on that statement -'the pornographers who created material that you were exposed to when you were a young child should be feeling guilty too' - I doubt it, because the creators of the material wouldn't have intended it to be shown to minors, so the guilt should lie with whoever showed it to the OP, not the producers of the material.

AnyFucker Tue 09-Aug-11 16:42:41

the only thing that makes me feel uncomfortable about your post is your regular use of porn from the age of 12

where the fuck were your parents ? hmm

if your relationship is otherwise respectful and equal, what you both enjoy (with 100% consent, without any coercion) in the bedroom is your own business

Georgia1987 Tue 09-Aug-11 22:29:44

Thanks everyone for your responses!

To clarify, I got into watching porn myself as I'd been masturbating for a couple of years by then, and basically wanted to see more online of what turned me on when I saw it on TV. My parents had no idea and I knew how to hide what I was doing on the computer. I understand now the kind of warped images I gave myself about how sex works, but I can't really turn back the clock unfortunately sad

solidgoldbrass, I've read several things like what you said about reclaiming the experience of being oppressed, and it reminded me of similar phenomenons in ethnic minorities and the amount that choose to engage in sexual roleplays where they 'play' a racial stereotype and so on. Do the women here who disagree that women can/should engage in submissive sex have any opinions on this kind of issue?

My boyfriend is the most respectful and caring man I've ever met. Your responses led me to asking him what goes through his mind when we're doing these things, and I was actually really surprised to hear him say that he doesn't personally think of certain aspects of our sex as degrading, but he knows how much I enjoy them and does it to make it as good as possible for me. I was really surprised and kind of pleased to hear this, and wouldn't have asked without being prompted by all your ideas smile

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 09-Aug-11 22:31:51

You enjoy it.
Your bf enjoys it.
No need to feel guilty.

AnyFucker Tue 09-Aug-11 22:35:49

nobody here has said women shouldn't engage in submissive sex

do you want someone to tell you to stop ? confused

HerBeX Tue 09-Aug-11 22:41:17

"Do the women here who disagree that women can/should engage in submissive sex have any opinions on this kind of issue?"

I don't think there are any women here who have expressed the view that women can or should not engage in submissive sex. I think women should just enjoy sex whatever way they can tbh, as long as it's not harming themselves or anyone else.

Where it becomes a problem, is if the women themselves are feeling unhappy about it. If you feel guilty or uncomfortable about it, then it's bad. Your OP seemed to imply that you wanted to change how you "do sex". Now that you've had the convo with your DP which has reassured you, is there still a problem?

DontCallMePeanut Tue 09-Aug-11 22:45:20

Agree with Dione and Anyfucker on this one.

As long as it's between you and your boyfriend, doesn't affect your relationship and doesn't affect how you or your boyfriend see other women, I don't think there's harm. You're not being exploited.

I do, however, hav concerns about the fact you were able to access (or had a desire to) such material from such a young age. But you've already adressed that.

CaptainNancyBlackett Wed 10-Aug-11 09:05:24

Seriously, men should feel guilty about getting sexually excited through degrading women during sex. Why are people scared to say that?

The personal is political. Men who get off on dominating and humiliating women are no friend of women, even if the women like it. Women "liking" it is not the point. Women are trained to enjoy being dominated and humiliated by men. Georgia has already said that she's been exposed to porn since she was 12. Of course that will have had an effect on her sexuality and her view of herself and of what sex has to be. There is absolutely no reason to say there is no harm going on here, there has been and there still is.

(Dittany here BTW, on a short break from my long break).

Also Georgia, just because your boyfriend says he doesn't think what he's doing is degrading doesn't mean it isn't. You've already said it is. I suppose the question is what does he enjoy doing to you, if you want to answer of course.

CaptainNancyBlackett Wed 10-Aug-11 09:19:11

Georgia I missed your question about people from ethnic minorities taking part in reenacting racial abuse "consensually".

Are you seriously arguing that there is every any justification for a white person to be involved in that kind of behaviour? I'd say any white person who got involved in something like that, particularly if they were getting sexually excited about it, was a racist fuck and dangerous to boot. What benefit is it to anybody to encourage white people to enact racism on people from ethnic minorities or for men to enact misogyny on women? It makes no sense.

solidgoldbrass Wed 10-Aug-11 10:12:22

What about women who get sexually excited by 'degrading' men? 'Degrading' is a very subjective term of course. And don't say that there are no women who enjoy things like doing men up the bum with a strap on, or putting them in handcuffs etc, because there are. I'm one of them. Doesn't mean I mistreat men on a general daily basis and I am only interested in doing stuff like that to men who enjoy it.

TryLikingClarity Wed 10-Aug-11 10:19:32

I've been thinking about this thread all morning.

My first response was, "Wow, this woman has been exposed to too much way too young" in regards to porn.

My second response was to think that she is in a loving relationship with a bf she can talk to and communicate with, which is great.

Maybe the idea of what is 'degrading' is subjective, and if so then it's up to the OP and her bf to decide where their boundaries are.

OTOH, she said that she struggles to be aroused and enjoy sex as much if it's softer and not 'degrading' which to me is a bit of a red light that the porn images have sunk deep into her mind....

I think SGB has this sussed when she says that these things happen in private time, during consenting adults and that on a daily basis in work, on the street, in public they are kind, civil and loving people.

Enjoy your relationship OP, is very hard for any of us to judge you or your bf's whole character from hearing so little about you.

CaptainNancyBlackett Wed 10-Aug-11 10:36:21

I think the idea that men who get off on degrading women are kind, civil and loving people is wishful thinking. We live in a misogynistic rape culture. We read threads on here all the time about women who have been sexually attacked, degraded, abused and humiliated by men, yet somehow we're not supposed to think badly of men who fill their sexual boots with the opportunities that this culture affords them, even if they aren't directly contributing to sexual attacks women face.

Would a loving person really take advantage of a partner who had had her childhood sexuality warped by exposure to pornography? A sexuality that is so damaged that she can only view herself through her male partner's eyes and enjoy being degraded because she knows that he gets off by sexually degrading her? Not a sexuality that can enjoy itself directly but rather has to be fulfilled through vicarious pleasure experienced through her partner. It's called disassociation and its created by sexual damage.

I feel like I've come back to Stepford land where it's the boyfriend who enjoys degrading sex who is apparently the authority here and the one to offer "reassurance" which the OP is supposed to accept, and the relationship that matters above all else, no matter than the harmful sex is built on a foundation of childhood sexual harm.

We are in the feminist section, not the "if you're in a relationship don't criticise your man" section.

SardineQueen Wed 10-Aug-11 10:41:02

Depends what it meant by degrading, surely. Different people will have different ideas of what that means, and thus different reactions to the post.

I don't really understand how a 12 yo decides to seek out porn because they have been masturbating since 10. A 12 yo decides to seek out porn because they know it exists and are interested, usually, rather than to use it as an adult would. I am probably naive though and everyone is different.

SardineQueen Wed 10-Aug-11 10:42:12

Xposts captainnancy (BTW I thought you were the other captain nancy!) and my post wasn't a direct response to yours although it reads like it.

SardineQueen Wed 10-Aug-11 10:43:31

I mean at 10 / 12 surely children are still in a "feels nice" kind of zone rather than an "I want to fantasise about being taken by 4 men" kind of zone IYSWIM.

noddyholder Wed 10-Aug-11 10:46:32

What would happen if you met someone else if/when your current relationship ends? They may not be comfortable. I am not sure you sound happy with it at all but am not au fait with this whole thing so obviously have no advice based on experience.

Malificence Wed 10-Aug-11 11:33:03

I would say that's is a problem if it's the only way you can enjoy sex, that does sound like conditioning. You are severely limiting your enjoyment for one thing, great sex should encompass a myriad of experiences imho.
I like a bit of spanking and (fairly mild) domination myself but I would be very worried if it was the only thing that got me going because it's not healthy when it's that intense, it seems more of a compulsion than actual enjoyable sex.
As others have said, degradation is a subjective term - to some , spanking would be degrading, the things I see as degrading and therefore unenjoyable , like being spat on or called humiliating names, are huge turn-ons for some people.
How about some psycho-sexual counselling to work through these issues, there must be something niggling away at you to have posted this?

Vixaxn Wed 10-Aug-11 11:39:56

"You enjoy it.
Your bf enjoys it.
No need to feel guilty."

This. Why are you worried? perhaps its that you think it makes you a bad girl? it doesn't. Forget societys conditioning about what 'good girls' should enjoy and do what turns you on. You are not alone by a long shot, it's just a kinky game, right?

CaptainNancyBlackett Wed 10-Aug-11 11:54:55

Society's conditioning is actually that women should be sexually masochistic - "good" women are supposed to submit to their approved male partner. Similarly society encourages men to be sexually sadistic. These two people are playing their assigned stereotyped roles. A woman being submissive and sexually masochistic is threatening nothing, challening nothing. A man being sexually dominant and/or sexually sadistic is helping to reinforce and uphold illegitimate male power.

Did feminist analysis take a summer break too?

(The reason I'm not back for good is that apparently I still can't help myself getting really pissed off about this kind of stuff, especially its unthinking acceptance by women posting in the feminist section of all places).

Malificence Wed 10-Aug-11 12:11:02

At the risk of asking "what about the menz" wink - there are a lot of men who like to be sexually dominated and "degraded" , is that perfectly ok from a feminist viewpoint?

Actually, I'm just as happy "switching" with my DH and being the dominant one for sex, as it happens, we had a very vanilla sex life for 20+ years until I suggested exploring different things too.
We are absolute equals in our marriage, in fact I'm the dominant one when it comes to finances/decision making etc.
Perhaps being sexually dominant is his way of reinforcing his "male power" because he feels emasculated by my strength of character? hmm or perhaps the fact that he has a female boss means that he needs to take his resentment out on me?

Sometimes, just sometimes, conditioning doesn't have an effect and there are no ulterior motives for what people enjoy in the bedroom.

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