I happen to be of the opinion that the reason why so many people don't self-identify as feminists, even while holding largely conventional feminist beliefs, is that feminism has been subject to a relentless, coordinated, and well-financed misinformation campaign. Those who are opposed to the central tenets of feminism (most importantly and prominently the elementary notion that women are of equal value to men) have worked tirelessly for decades to discredit the movement through distortion. So it didn't come as any surprise to me when, this past semester, my class of upperclassmen universally defined feminism as a man-hating, baby-hating, joyless caricature. Establishment power works to preserve its position of privilege and doesn't play fair.
I bring this up because I am consistently annoyed by a particular vein of argument that goes something like this: many people seem to enjoy behavior X, but behavior X is seen as antifeminist or sexist, therefore feminism prohibits people from doing things that they enjoy. To make this less abstract, consider this post of mine wherein I argue that, for example, rough sex or similar could in fact be part of a loving and progressive relationship between equals. I had a commenter informing me that, nope, if you get rough with your girlfriend in a sexual context, if she's a feminist, she'll "cry rape." So people are forced to choose, in this reading, between their commitment to feminism and their enjoyment of aggression (or whatever) in sex. Feminism prohibits making that choice.
Well, there are indeed a lot of (righteous and necessary) arguments in the feminist tradition that repudiate violence against women. But is a feminist woman forced to thus abandon rough sex, if her partner likes it and she is eager to please him or her? Or if she enjoys it herself? She is not. Feminism, as a part of the classical liberal tradition-- an inevitable consequence of liberal ideals, incidentally-- is a self-limiting critique, which is precisely what gives it its strength. Feminism is not a set of rules that Andrea Dworkin drew up which you must follow or be subject to angry screeds. Feminism, if you'll forgive this dude for doing a bit of defining-- it's sub-optimal for me to be doing so, but I think necessary right now-- is a set of arguments and ideas that work to improve the conditions of women and help address the millennia of oppression that they have labored under.
To the degree that feminism suggests behaviors to avoid, it does so in terms of general behavior. Those rules can be set aside if both or all parties are engaged in effective communication, in a sphere of true gender equity, and with genuine, informed consent. That means that, yes, there are names a woman's partner can call her when having sex that we would not define as enlightened or consistent with feminism in a broader context. Broadly speaking, feminism deals with general behaviors. Committed relationships (of whatever kind) between consenting adults are about the particularities of two people and their contexts. Communication is both important and frequently difficult, but that's relationships for you. Note that the conditions of genuine equity between partners are essential; a maid might tell her employer that she's okay with him referring to her as "sweetie," but if he's the boss, and she's aware of the importance of a sociable relationship, her consent might not be sufficient.
So consider the gloss on feminism from above, that it prevents (or attempts to prevent) people from doing things that they enjoy. Well, it's true-- sometimes, commitment to feminism compels you to not do things you'd enjoy. I'm sure many men enjoy harassing strangers on the subway, grabbing their secretary's ass, or a whole host of other noxious behaviors. But the idea that you can't, in a committed relationship, with mutual consent between adults, enjoy whatever sexual play you both desire while remaining a feminist is just bullshit. And I imagine that people suggesting otherwise know it's bullshit.
I'm not saying it's always easy. Like any ethical commitment, feminism has consequences. I kind of dig the few Odd Future songs I've heard, but I feel forced by my commitment to feminism to conclude that Tyler the Creator is a misogynist asshole. Whether that means I shouldn't support his band is a complex question, but whether I should tell other liberals that I think so is not. More importantly and directly, my commitment to feminism means that I have to operate in professional and academic settings with a conscious commitment to how I treat and refer to women peers and coworkers. That doesn't mean that I can't, over time and with care, develop relationships with these women that aren't as formal. But such informality can only be earned over time and engaged in with communication and consent.
Don't believe the hype, guys, seriously. I get you-- if I can't call my baby my baby, to hell with it. But that's the thing about a relationship, that you have earned a set of behaviors with one particular person that you wouldn't engage in with other people. And if people insist that's antifeminist, you insist to be shown which feminists are saying that, and in which contexts. 90% of the time, those claims are just part of the antifeminist noise machine.