I'm currently bogged down with work, and more interested when I do have free time in doing BDSM rather than in theorizing about how feminism should think about it. (Actually having a partner will do this :) But I do want to bring something up as a possible discussion topic.
I often see feminists claiming that domination and submission is a bad pattern for... well, for anything really. Whether it be intimate relationships or the role of social institutions,
some feminists strongly contrast something "egalitarian" or "peer-to-peer" or "equal" or "respectful" or the like with a twisted dynamic in which someone seizes and wields power to everyone's detriment. I'm thinking of this now because I've just re-read Judith Herman's excellent Trauma and Recovery on post-traumatic stress disorder, and I notice her giving warnings about the therapeutic relationship becoming one of "domination and submission" (as well as warning that many survivors expect healing to involve a "sadomasochistic orgy" of cathartic revelation, rather than slow and steady progress working with traumatic memory.)
Some such feminists allow for the BDSM flavor of D/s as some sort of odd special case, either because it's consensual or because they think of D/s as time-limited sex play. Which makes some sense, except that D/s isn't always time-limited sex play, and that, well, while I think consent means a hell of a lot, sometimes we do consent to things we oughtn't.
So I really wonder if it's the right tack to take that there's this universal bad thing called "domination and submission", and D/s as done by us is simply the exception that, ultimately, proves the rule. We're so resourceful that we can (sometimes) do it wisely, but it's just bad in the first place, really.
I understand her concern, and even share it -- power dynamics have to be gardened, in a sense. Trimmed and kept up so they don't slip into dysfunctional inequality. But at the same time, I wonder if "domination and submission" really is naturally dysfunctional, or if the problem is either:
1) People are lazy. Most of the time they don't care about the responsibilities that come with wielding power, or the responsibilities that come with submitting (those being keeping a hawk-eye on your boundaries, and standing up for yourself if/when they get pushed.)
2) Domination and submission is bad as a social structure. Power can never be wielded wisely over groups; such a thing invariably involves oppression, violence, silencing, stifling, etc. The confusion comes when people don't distinguish between interpersonal power dynamics, which may be benign or positive even outside of BDSM, and social ones.
Any thoughts? I find myself wincing when I see the phrase overused as what's obviously wrong with the world, but I have trouble articulating just why.