As a male photographer who admits to enjoying being sexually dominant, I enjoy taking photographs of women being sexually submissive. I also consider myself to be someone who is pro-feminist and strongly in favour of moving towards greater gender equality.
To some people, these two things are at odds with each other. How is it that a man can enjoy the idea of women being sexually submissive while also respecting women and women’s rights?
Most people in kink/BDSM communities understand this. Many submissive women have resolved the seemingly conflicting ideas.
A woman’s desire to be sexually submissive, when it is her choice, is something to be understood and respected.
Perhaps as society ebbs slowly towards gender equality, sexual submission in women is considered more taboo than before. Maybe as women are more and more likely to take on traditionally male roles (from a patriarchal standpoint), the idea of conforming to a primitive, carnal power balance becomes more exciting and erotically charged?
I want to undertake a photography project which addresses these issues by photographing and speaking to women who enjoy being sexually submissive.
I will shoot a series of portraits of women who self identify as sexually submissive. At this stage I am undecided as to whether these images will show them in positions of submission or not. So far I am imagining clothed portraits of women individually, with a visual signifier of sexual submissiveness included in each image e.g. ball gag, rope, cane, cuffs - it’s important to see the woman, the person; not a woman objectified as a sex object (despite that being what some women desire to be seen as, in context as part of their submissive fantasies).
In conjunction with the images, I want to speak at length to each of the subjects about how they reconcile their sexual submissiveness with their everyday personas and with society’s view of women. I want to project an image of strong women choosing what they enjoy.
Much of my previous photography could easily be considered of the male gaze and focussing on women's sexuality as way to arouse the viewer.
I want to create something that, while still staged, is more documentary in nature. I want to create something real and genuine around women's sexuality that isn't necessarily as a way to arouse.
Masturbation is a healthy sexual practice that most people enjoy. It's incredibly intimate and personal to each of us. Many women use sex toys during masturbation and while things like Ann Summers are hugely successful and highly visible on the high street, I think there still remains some reticence to be open about our preferences and habits.
I'd like to undertake a photographic study of women and their toys (perhaps even the use of the word 'toy' somehow demeans the object). I'd like to photograph portraits of a number women that use sex toys and place them image alongside a separate 'portrait' of their sex toy.
The juxtaposition of the person, without any overt sexual nature to the image, alongside their toy might be more compelling than showing something graphic.
I am also open to the idea of male participants although it might be more challenging to find people willing and male masturbation, I think, is less taboo (although men using toys probably is).
My aim is to visit willing participants in their own home to take their portrait and their toy portrait. I want to shoot on medium format colour film. The final images will be hung with person and toy side by side.
The following is just an idea at this stage. I understand it may be too much for some people, so it's certainly not a requirement:
I'm interested in the possibility of photographing women using their toys but keeping the portrait a non-nude head/shoulders portrait. It might sound similar to Beautiful Agony but I'm not aiming to show facial expressions that are obviously orgasm; I think it'd be fascinating in the explanatory panel to tell the viewer that this is what's going on, but for it to be so subtle to be almost completely undetectable otherwise. It's what the viewer puts together in his/her own mind...