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Gender Studies: Lesbian Sadomasochism Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Feb 16th, 2021

Butler discusses the issue of lesbian sadomasochism and how it relates to power and weaknesses. She argues that lesbians who engage in sadomasochism with their partners are driven by the need to fulfill their sexual urges and domineer over their partners. She stresses that sadomasochism enables women be in touch with their fears and inner feelings. However, she finds fault with lesbian sadomasochism because it confers the status of dominance to one partner while making the other partner play a submissive role. She emphasizes that the notion of equality between two lesbian women is negatively affected by the practice. Therefore, she insists lesbian sadomasochism is a reflection of the dominance-submission power systems which exist in many societies dominated by men.

However, Kitt’s view on sadomasochism is different from Butler’s assertions. She says that lesbian sadomasochism offers women an avenue through which they exercise their own choices regarding their sexuality. She insists that lesbians who engage in sadomasochism exercise their freedom to choose modes of sexual activities which satisfy their desires. She is of the view that some conservative feminists should not condemn lesbians that choose to explore how their bodies react to pain and pleasure. She defends lesbian sadomasochism arguing that it treads a fine line between pain and pleasure to give those who engage in it a different way to satisfy their sexual urges. She insists critics of sadomasochism only see pain and humiliation yet the people involved consent to it because of the strong connection they feel.

In an interview with Susan Leigh Star, Audre Lorde argues that lesbian sadomasochism encourages manipulation of one party to submit to a more dominant partner. She insists that sadomasochism has strong implications on the way single –sex partners relate. It advances a perception that domineering people always get what they want at the expense of other people who are not strong enough. She adds that the practice helps to perpetuate the stereotype that domination is part of life which people cannot do without. Lorde argues that people who engage in sadomasochism do not do so out of pleasure. Therefore, Lorde insists women who claim to get love out of sadomasochism should not use the pretext it helps them satisfy their sexual urges.

Mistress Vena, a dominatrix, shares her experiences on sadomasochism. She reveals that she inflicts pain on her male clients who pay her to do it. Even though some of her clients are older, they easily follow her orders during sessions. She dominates over them because they are willing to play the role of subordinates. She makes some of her male partners cross-dress during sadomasochism sessions and act as females. Mistress Vena says she also humiliates her clients whenever they ask for it. She insists that many of her male clients who act as subordinates derive pleasure from acts of humiliation and pain.


Do you agree with Butler’s position that sadomasochism promotes patriarchal ideals contrary to feministic ideals which advocate for equality?

Does sadomasochism reflect the current power structures in the society where leaders dominate over their subjects?

To what extent do you believe that lesbian sadomasochism encourages sharing between two lovers?

Does the difference between feminists regarding the issue of sadomasochism a cause for concern for the feminist movement?

Do you think sadomasochism justifies the use of violence against weaker parties?

Has sexuality become more public than it used to be in the past?

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1. IvyPanda. "Gender Studies: Lesbian Sadomasochism." February 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gender-studies-lesbian-sadomasochism/.


IvyPanda. "Gender Studies: Lesbian Sadomasochism." February 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gender-studies-lesbian-sadomasochism/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Gender Studies: Lesbian Sadomasochism." February 16, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/gender-studies-lesbian-sadomasochism/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Gender Studies: Lesbian Sadomasochism'. 16 February.

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