What does a magazine article about a sexually submissive man tell us about gender roles?
This article is entirely fascinating to me. (I need hardly say that one should definitely not read the comments.) It ties in, of course, with what I myself recently wrote about how our images of female dominance and male submission are trapped, bound up if you will, in trite images of leather corsets and floggers, cheap jokes from raunchy comedies and stock male fantasies from plain-wrapped magazines.
The author of that article is never whipped, never abused, never insulted or belittled, none of the standard images of male submission that one might imagine from the outside. Yet he is utterly, profoundly dominated and controlled on a level some would find scarcely credible. Clearly, cliché is a poor roadmap in these regions of the human heart.
His writing that article, even anonymously, is an astounding act of naked vulnerability. Even putting aside the very frank details of his genital adventures, or lack thereof, he’s giving us an intimate look at the psychology of male sexual submission, still a taboo subject. Submissive men are openly mocked, regarded as not “real men”, treated as intrinsically weak and effeminate, because they’re subverting heteronormative gender dynamics in the worst possible way. It’s not just that they’re failing to perform the role of the uber-dominant, assertive, all-powerful male, they’re not even trying to perform it. They don’t want to. They reject that role. Therefore they must be belittled, must be gender-enforced and shamed out of existence, so hegemonic masculinity may reign unquestioned.
For all that, though, there’s something I wish was in the article that isn’t, and that’s the perspective of the author’s wife, the mysterious DR. There’s a very sweet moment where she makes him bring her to several orgasms, and then gushes “I’ve been needing that for a day and a half!” but that’s about all we see of her desires. We see a good deal of what he gets out of this arrangement, the sense of arousal and deep contentment at giving up control, at following the rules, but we don’t see her side of it. What need is this feeding in her? How does she feel when he wakes her up with kisses at seven every morning? Did she initiate this aspect of their relationship, or did he?
This article is definitely not one of those bits of one-sided porn that reduces dominant women to fantasy playthings. However, it doesn’t tell us any more about the experience of being a dominant woman than the porn does. Am I the only one who thinks it would be cooler if it did?