Why I Don’t Believe In The Domme Deficit

Even in the kink community, gender stereotypes are, at best, socially constructed.

Sexually submissive men get kind of a raw deal, culturally. They’re regarded as weak, as unmanly, they’re made into punchlines when they’re referred to at all, and even within the BDSM community, they often get regarded as losers because so many of them have a hard time getting a girlfriend, which we all know is a basic component of performing masculinity. One of the reasons cheesy kink gags in mainstream movies and TV are always femdom scenarios is because we’re conditioned to see a man submitting to a woman as intrinsically laughable, which is a pretty shitty deal when that’s what you’re sincerely into.

There’s another shitty deal involved, if you ask folks in kink: the domme deficit. It’s a perennial complaint in kink circles, the same old sad song we’ve all heard: there are way more straight male subs than there are straight female tops. A dominant woman is a rare, nigh-mythical creature, one that might be glimpsed from afar like a unicorn or downloaded off the internet like… well, like everything. It’s the internet.

Thing is, I’m pretty sure that’s not actually true.

The default, easy assumption in kink circles is that men tend to be dominant and women tend to be submissive. You even get some jackasses saying that women are naturally or intrinsically submissive, and pointing to things like the success of the faux-edgy 50 Shades of Grey as “proof”. By the same logic, the popularity of the NBA with men proves that men are naturally about 6’8″.

Lord knows male-dominant female-submissive is an easy set of roles for both partners to step into. There’s a whole set of cultural assumptions and narratives about tough, dangerous, aggressive men and soft, vulnerable, pliant women that will validate the hell out of those roles for you. I think that may be why they’re the first roles folks tend to experiment with in kink; when you’re unsure what you want or how to get it, it’s very easy to go with the plug-and-play option. And a lot of folks find all the fulfillment they want in those roles, which is great for them. Others tend to switch more as they get older and more comfortable in different roles, and some just never dig on maledom in the first place.

People tend to assume that the majority of those not into maledom are men who would really, really like some woman to control them, abuse them, and have her way with them, but they just can’t find one. Heaven knows I don’t deny those guys are out there, but I don’t think they constitute the majority of kinky folks unfulfilled by maledom fantasies, though.

Take another look at the photo at the top of this post. It’s from a stock photo website, and the great thing about stock photos is they’re a great visual record of “normal”, of conventional wisdom, of what folks vaguely assume everyone knows. A stock photo of a white man in a blue shirt will be labeled “man in blue shirt” and a stock photo of a black man in the same shirt will be “black man in blue shirt” because our culture vaguely assumes that white is normal. So right up there, that thin, tanned, busty lady with no face and a black leather corset is what you get when you search for “dominatrix”. That’s not to criticize the hardworking folks at Shutterstock, mind you; their job is descriptive, not prescriptive. They just reflect extant cultural assumptions, and that photo honestly is what conventional wisdom vaguely associates with the word dominatrix.

That, of course, is the problem.

That image is an enormously reductive fantasy. It’s a purely male-gaze image that doesn’t even fit the majority of male submissive fantasies. It certainly doesn’t fit the majority of fantasies by women who might like to be dominant. But it’s the only image we have as a culture. When a woman is asking herself “I wonder if I might be a domme?” she will most likely think of that image and say “Oh, well, that’s not me.”

Think I’m making that up? Read this article. No, seriously, take a minute to read it. It’s good stuff. And it makes the point that our images of femdom are based entirely in an iconography taken from a subset of male fantasies, with little to no regard for the woman’s point of view. Don’t believe me? Go find some femdom videos that focus on the male submissive, presenting him as the attractive focus of the erotic gaze. Take your time; they’re out there, but you’ll have to dig. Most videos and photos are designed entirely for a male audience, where the dominant woman is the fantasy object and the guy she’s topping might as well be a prop.

I’m pretty dang sure there are an awful lot of women out there who, like the author of “One of the Nineteen”, have plenty of dominant desires toward men, but can’t connect their self-images or their fantasies to what they think a domme is “supposed” to look like. Why am I so sure? Because I’ve read their porn.

I’ve written before about the research I did into the female gaze, the erotic images of men that women construct for each other outside the commercial structures of “mainstream” porn. The key component of the female gaze, if I may be forgiven an oversimplification for brevity, is vulnerability. It can be subtle, a moment of naked emotional honesty from a man who never shows his inner self. It can also be painfully overt, with men stripped of all their power and reduced to helpless dependence, what Katharine Gates called “wounded man fetish”. When one looks at the pornographic culture that gave us whump, woobies, and hurt/comfort, one sees a kaleidoscope of erotic images of men writhing in torment, crying, begging, suffering beautifully right and left.

Call me crazy, but I feel like there’s juuuuust a little power dynamic there.

So what I’m seeing from where I’m standing is a huge demographic of women who are really turned on by male submission, but who, in Bitchy Jones’ phrase, “aren’t comfortable in femdom.” That’s a pretty serious disconnect. Now, there are plenty of reasons why someone might feel excluded from the BDSM “scene”, but I think we need to add this to the list. There are a ton of women who are sexually dominant but who don’t want to present that way in the kink community. And why should they? As long as we reductively imagine toppy ladies as having to fit a weird, male-fantasy-driven mold, we’re telling 95% of toppy ladies that they’re not welcome.

This is not to say that male fantasies aren’t worthy of respect and as much fulfillment as can be arranged, but when one singular fantasy is the sole image of female dominance that most people imagine, we are nowhere close to equal time. I would love to see an evolution of kink imagery in our culture, to where the vast majority of dominant women begin to feel that it’s something they can express, can enjoy. There is a huge diversity of dommes out there, and until that diversity is reflected, it won’t really be expressed.

More reflection of authentic female fantasies is also called for. As long as our ideas of femdom kink play only reflect what it’s doing for a standardized male sub (who is presumably also spherical and frictionless), those ideas won’t apply to an awful lot of women who have their own notions about what they’d like to do to some poor boy. Male subs will have to learn that it’s not just about fulfilling their own fantasies, that fulfilling hers is at least as important. Possibly if we phrase this as “You have to do what she wants” it’ll be an easier sell.

 

Photo—Close-up shot of busty woman in black leather corset from Shutterstock

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About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.

Comments

  1. Emmeline says:

    My favorite boy ever is a nerdy internet comedian, who favorites fanart of his characters crying, jokes that the only reason why people watch his show is to see him suffer, cosplays as Link without the tights and spreads his legs on camera, and is just so deliciously, submissively naughty that I just had to gush on this post.

  2. I’d never heard of the term “whump” before, but my experience with “woobies” and “hurt/comfort” is that they’re usually female, not male. And quite often children. (Not usually sexualized.) I don’t really pay attention to the gender of the authors, though. Admittedly, my experience comes from limited subgroups of the anime/manga fanfic community (not the broader story-writing community), and nothing recent (haven’t been around there for a few years) so there may be some sampling bias there.

    Though I do note that, in my experience, when they *are* male… it’s quite often M/M slash.

    • Emmeline says:

      Speaking as a fanfic writer who isn’t in anime, it’s seen as more acceptable to whump guys than girls in any genre – slash, gen, het, whatever. This is because, as one person said (and I’m not making this up), “it’s to punish them for not fearing rape in real life”.

      • Wait, thinking about it some more I know what might cause such a bias… among the anime subcategories that I’m most interested in, the popular ones most suitable for hurt/comfort etc. tend to be ones with mostly (or occasionally, entirely) female casts. For instance, I’m betting Madoka Magica fanfics would have been really popular somewhat recently, and I’d also bet there’d be quite a lot of hurt/comfort stories based on it. How many male characters in that series? Basically zero. Okay, Madoka’s father and brother, but they have like a few minutes screentime in the first and last episodes. And Kyubey, but he’s an emotionless alien cat-pokemon thing who is largely regarded by the fans as being Satan, so I don’t think that would work. Likewise, most of the best examples I can come up with, past or present, don’t have much in the way of male cast. Again, that may not even be true with anime in general, just the particular subgenres that I’m most interested in.

        …Also, “not fearing rape”… WHAT.

  3. Ava Terrell (a dom) once came and talked at a conference about BDSM…she brought one of her clients, a corporate executive type, who regaled us with stories of how she made him dress up in women’s panties and tied him to the mast of a sailboat and whipped him….he loved it! We listened to their stories and tried to seem nonchalant, but I was really shocked at their stories….It was such an unreal and weird experience….almost like listening to Angelina Jolie or Nicole Kidman being interviewed (even in their supposedly most candid moments, it seemed kind of rehearsed and theatrical)….

    I think I saw that Ava was later featured in a film about S&M/pornography…and she was featured along with her younger lover whom she lashed out at verbally (and physically)….Her rage was scary to watch according to the film reviewer….Disturbing stuff…

  4. Peter Houlihan says:

    As far as I’ve seen there is a domme deficit, but also a dom deficit. Subs are in much greater supply, especially male ones.

    • I’ve heard that too, and it seems like there’s less of an issue with F sub oversupply because the M doms sometimes take harems. Meanwhile I rarely hear about the F dommes having male harems, and I’ve never seen anyone use the term “brother slave” or an equivalent.

      • And you probably never will see the term “brother slave” because, even in BDSM and poly circles, there’s a lot of men who insist on interacting mainly with the woman and with only her when it comes to sex. Women have embrace heteroflexibility and bisexuality in much greater numbers. While there are certainly reasons the domme might choose not to take on a harem, sometimes the obstacle of “OMG, no, two penises in this relationship is one too many” is the thing that kicks that right in the balls.

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        I think it’s a mixture of that, and the fact that even in the context of the BDSM scene the roles of male-suitor vs. female-romancee still hold true.

        This tends to work better for submissive women and dominant men since the dominant partner is the one who is expected to do all the chasing. When the reverse is applied (straight) male subs often don’t really know what to do with themselves, on one hand they are left with a load of gender baggage which says they have to pursue their partner, but on the other hand their personality and role suggests pacivism.

        I’ve seen this happen a whole lot where a new female sub on the scene will tend to find a partner within a month or two (and have a great deal of choices while doing so) while a male sub will have to work like hell to get any attention at all.

        It’s a pity that gender roles still apply, even within a community which ostensibly breaks them down, but it seems to be the way our culture works.

    • As far as I’ve seen there is a domme deficit, but also a dom deficit. Subs are in much greater supply

      I was just about to post the same thing myself.

  5. This is a very interesting article. I think it only brushes the surface of how BDSM and D/s, far from being at odds with a lot of cultural conditioning, is very often, in fact, a dramatized, hyperbolized version of it. And you’re spot on. I look at that picture and think… well, hell. That’s not me.

    But it’s not simply a matter of being unable to self-identify visually. And here is where I disagree with you about the Domme deficit. I have met very few Dommes (i.e. not some professional sex workers who take on the trappings of Dommes because it pays the bills well). They tend to be extraordinary women who have the interior strength and the critical mind it takes to break out of an all-encompassing normative model of what being a woman means. It is easy to pay lipservice to gender equality when it comes to power, but thousands of years of learning how to survive when you aren’t the one with the power takes its toll. For an individual to be able to overcome that tide is, from a purely sociological perspective, quite extraordinary. That’s why I think there are, in fact, very few real, self-acknowledged Dommes.

    And unfortunately, as you eloquently described, the emasculation of male submissives doesn’t help. The representation of them as hardly male at all becomes a self-perpetuating reality. Many male subs take on very effeminate stances because they have come to think that THAT is what a male sub is. It isn’t easy to see a person who hardly acknowledges their own masculinity as sexually attractive. It’s not easy to get worked up over a neuter, unless you have a very unique set of kinks indeed.

    I just think the barriers to overcome are a great deal more complex than you have described here. It’s not just that I don’t fit into that corset. It’s that I don’t WANT to fit into that corset, and I want you to worship me anyway.

    • Noah Brand says:

      Well, that’s just what I’m getting at. If I’m reading your closing statement correctly, you’re certainly open to being on top of a power dynamic in a relationship, but you’re not into the pseudo-masculine aggressiveness that so often accompanies the stereotypical corsets-bondage-and-flogging domme. (No offense to those who dig that style, of course.) Let me know if I’m misreading you there.

      What I’m saying is that the limited stereotypes we have of dominant women go well beyond the visual, and into the kinds of fantasies we ascribe to them. As you imply, one can worship without whipping or leather. We need to be expanding our conceptual vocabulary past the easy slang terms that are too often how we think about taboo matters.

      • Yes, you are reading me correctly. As as you say, no offense to people who dig that style, but it’s all too much like theatre for my taste. For me domination and submission are relationships of the mind. The acts one plays that relationship out with are only the outward manifestations of it. I think having to fit into some caricature of a vamp is probably the absolute antithesis of what female domination is really about. Within the bounds of consent, of course, I think female domination is far more about women’s capacity to be the aggressor in a uniquely feminine way. Moreover, I think it probably takes a man who is incredibly secure in his own masculinity to make a truly natural male submissive.

        To be desired as a man, for being a man, and to allow the power dynamic of how that desire is played out to reside with the woman goes against such a wealth of normative gender role scripts, it is very rare to encounter it. I’ve alerted I.G. Frederick to this blog post. I hope she comments on it. It will be interesting to see her response.

        • Noah Brand says:

          Yeah, I think we’re largely on the same page. There’s forms of dominance and kink that simply aren’t part of the common narratives, and should be. I will say that I’m not into talking about what any particular role or kink “really is” or how someone is “truly” anything. That kind of prescriptivism usually just leads to more bad feeling, in my experience.

  6. I am a FemDom. It’s who I am. It’s how I live my life. It defines my relationships (I own a male submissive and have owned a slave in the past).

    While I agree that there isn’t as much of a “Domme Deficit” as male bottoms whine about, in addressing the problem, you also feed it. Statements such as: “more straight male subs than there are straight female tops” ignores the difference between submissives and bottoms. In reality, male BOTTOMS are a dime a dozen and female TOPS are rare. But, male SUBMISSIVES are just as rare and female DOMINANTS are not as rare as female TOPS . You also support the stereotype when you compare DOMINATRIXES aka professional sex workers with FEMDOMS i.e. females who choose to be dominant in their relationships.

    Yes, a good part of the problem is cultural stereotypes. But, we’ll never overcome those, if those skewering the stereotypes don’t elucidate the critical difference between a top and a dominant, between a bottom and a submissive. (For more on this, you can read my rant at: http://eroticawriter.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/bdsm-labels/).

    That said, your last paragraph sums it up nicely. When I participated in online “dating,” it got very tiresome reading profiles from male bottoms who claimed to be submissive and then described all the things they expected a female to do for/to them. Those rare, beautiful (to a FemDom) male submissives, who offered their SERVICE and not just their ass got my attention.

    BTW, if you’d like a glimpse into “authentic female fantasies,” check out my short fiction at http://tinyurl.com/eroticawriter. Most of my BDSM stories are FemDom oriented (although I’ve written a few with male doms just to maintain my versatility), especially the collection “Lessons Learned” with stories that touch on the difference between S&M and D/s. And, my novel Dommemoir DOES take on the concept of a female with a male harem.

    • Noah Brand says:

      Well, as you point out, terminology varies a good deal, but I don’t think the unreached folks will be reached by making them fit into tightly-defined roles. Prescriptivism in general is the problem, not the solution. That said, I think we’re very much in agreement about the fact that too many of our assumptions about dominant women are very male-gaze oriented, not only visually but conceptually.

      • We are all defined by the language that we use. Better definitions allow clearer communications and make it less likely that someone who is looking for a service submissive will waste hours corresponding with someone who just wants his ass beaten so he can get his rocks off.

    • You make good points about the difference between tops/bottoms dommes/subs and the general lack of true submissives. With that said, I think one problem is that there are many “dommes” who are simply looking for subs to extract as much value for themselves as possible without recognizing and providing the other half of the relationship. As someone who is submissive in the sense that I LOVE doing things for other people, I love helping others, and I am always ready, willing, and able to help other people, I get taken advantage of a lot. I put the needs and happiness of others ahead of my own, and I am happy when they are happy. This makes me an easy mark for people who are less virtuous.

      Many “dommes” — and I put it in quotes because I do not believe people who do this are true dommes — are simply out to find men who will do things for them. You see the demand for tributes, cash slaves, financial domination, and the like. Then there are people like me who love doing things for others, but feel lessened when they do something after being told to do it.

      I feel that having someone tell you to do something and then doing it cheapens the value of doing it. When I do things for other people, I put a great deal of effort into finding out what they want and doing it without being told to do so. My favorite thing to do with friends and family is gifting. I love finding out exactly what the person wants without asking and then getting it for them! I will spontaneously gift just because I want to. I LOVE making other people happy.

      There seems to be a lack of appreciation that submissive individuals have needs and desires. They are one side of a relationship and that both sides must contribute.

      • Unfortunately too many people, both males and females, use BDSM as a license to abuse: physically, sexually, mentally, and financially. They’re not dominants, they’re abusers.

        One of the reasons I don’t consider submission a “gift,” is because no one should offer it with no expectations of anything in return (which is my definition of a gift). D/s should be symbiotic. If it’s parasitic, someone isn’t living up to the responsibilities that come on both sides of the dynamic.

        The beauty of a D/s relationship for someone such as yourself is that you have the freedom to give without being taken advantage of. However, that requires a dominant who understands the responsibilities that come with that role and unfortunately, that aspect is often missing in fictional representations that form the cultural narrative.

        Another problem that the stereotypes and online “relationships” have created, is the idea of instant D/s. One can’t develop the trust and respect required of a D/s relationship over night. Trust and respect must be earned over time (by both dom and sub) and require open and honest communication. That communication would allow you to develop a relationship with someone who appreciates the thought you put into your service rather than micro managing how you deliver it. Others prefer to have their every action dictated rather than risk making a mistake.

        The most important take away from this discussion is that BDSM is not a one-size-fits all dynamic. The most successful, enduring, and passionate relationships are custom built by the participants with all involved working to make sure that the others’ needs get met as well as their own.

        • Confidential says:

          I could not agree with this sentiment more. I am, in fact, a male pet, who was initially vehemently opposed to the idea of submission because I associated it with abuse, and it took my then girlfriend, now Mistress, to actually explain the mutual benefits of a more formally structured relationship, which were especially suited to an abuse survivor such as myself.

          We are currently online, but she is moving to me, which despite my inexperience I am given to understand rejects quite a few stereotypes on its own. Over three years she has become more strict, but it’s because she knows the things I am capable of handling, and of equal importance, willing to handle. I think you sum up the necessary individuality of each relationship beautifully.

  7. Hi Noah,

    Just wanted to let you know that the link for “One of the Nineteen” isn’t working as the “http:/” managed to find it’s way to the end of the link rather than the beginning. I think the migration has begun. :)

  8. Well said, as always–I’ve been waiting for someone to carry this idea further.

    I believe you were careful about this in your post, but as a heads up for commenters: I’m the author of One of the Nineteen, and while I identified as female when I started writing that post, I don’t now (cf. http://www.labcoatlingerie.com/2011/06/10/transplant/). I still think the points made there are valid and important, so I chose not to address the topic there when I was editing and publishing it, but wanted that to be known if it/I are going to be discussed here.

    Of course, there’s a whole other bucket of worms when you bring nonbinary gender into a discussion of D/s and imagery, but that’s a story for another post, I think.

    By the way, Noah–if I’d known you knew who I was, I’d have introduced myself properly when we ran into each other in your city about six weeks ago. ;)

    • Noah Brand says:

      Ah, okay, hope I didn’t offend on the gender point, Fizz. Thank you for the clarification.

      As to when we ran into each other, knowing myself I was probably distracted, stressed, and frightfully rude, so if you’d introduced yourself properly I’d likely still have forgotten your name. I’m awful when it comes to names. :)

  9. I can only speak from my own experience, but it’s not easy being a male submissive* who is not a masochist. Every depiction of male subs is alien to me – I have no desire to be pegged or whipped by a buxom young lady in a corset for my own sexual satisfaction. I just want to gain that unique kind of validation that only comes from giving up control. I really, truly want to please my dom/me, and that gets no press whatsoever. (The closest approximation is pet play, and while it’s fun to pretend to be a puppy, I’d like a human role model every now and then too!)

    *Actually a switch, but the idiotic pressures on me when I dom are a whole other post entirely.

    • Noah Brand says:

      Y’know, that’s a good point. I refer a lot to the corset-and-whip model as a male fantasy, and while I do acknowledge that it’s a small subset of male fantasy, I’m still probably painting with too broad a brush, that ends up erasing your experience to some extent. No offense meant.

    • Wow, I could have written this, right down to the pet play thing (which I tried — turns out a canine personality doesn’t make me want to pretend to BE a dog).

      Thank you for speaking up.

  10. No offense taken! I didn’t mean to aim my venting at you in particular.

    As a side note, it’s not like service sub women get a whole lot of press either. Everything is pain and humiliation in popular portrayals. Don’t get me wrong, I like causing pain just as much as any sadist, but there are so many other parts to the community. Like service tops. How many people have heard of service tops? Not enough, that’s for sure.

    • I have not only heard of service tops, but met a few. I think the sad truth of the matter is that when looking past the edges of mainstream, the media will inevitably focus on whatever has the most visual shock value. This goes for a lot of marketing tactics too. And there is also a strong dramatic performance aspect to certain parts of the scene that knows the entertainment value of the visual. The sad fact is that a consumerist society will always reduce everything to the most recognizable abstraction. Sooner or later, those representational simplifications and abstractions bleed back into the community itself. Thus, BDSM just is all about whips and chains. And if you don’t believe it, there’s a song, and a book. I’ve come to wonder if, perhaps, we wouldn’t be better off taking a tip from the freemasons and stick to an oath and a secret handshake.

      • I’ve come to wonder if, perhaps, we wouldn’t be better off taking a tip from the freemasons and stick to an oath and a secret handshake.

        But then we wouldn’t have an excuse to buy all that cool fetish gear and those leather/latex outfits!

  11. I think that another issue is that we have attached such cultural baggage to the terms (sexual) dominance and submission that even women who don’t manage to conjure up a mental image of whip-wielding Mistress Cruella may still have the connotation that a “submissive” man is weak, spineless, or wishy-washy – most of which are characteristics that nobody wants even in a vanilla partner.

    A lot of men enjoy the idea of giving up control in an erotic context, but have no idea how to convey those kinds of desires without looking like a poor potential partner. Worse, some men don’t realize that erotic dominance is what they are seeking until long after they get married, and then have no idea how to bring up the idea to a partner who has settled into an existing role. I suspect that many of these men enjoy the images of leather-clad, cruel dominas not because it’s what they *actually* want, but because they give some kind of form to their vague ideas. And unfortunately, since those images are the ones most often portrayed by the media, they begin to believe that this is what they *should* want.

    I’ve long been an advocate of doing away with the terms “dominance” and “submission” because of the cultural connotations, and because they really don’t offer up much in the way of describing what people *really* want in their relationships.

    • FlyingKal says:

      Well written. Thank you, Tom.

    • “I suspect that many of these men enjoy the images of leather-clad, cruel dominas not because it’s what they *actually* want, but because they give some kind of form to their vague ideas”

      Exactly.

    • FlyingKal says:

      I believe that people discovering a budding interest in something that they haven’t actually participated in yet, more often than not at best has a very vague idea about their feelings and reactions once they should eventually start to actually participate in said activity, and therefore in advance tend to glorify it,

      That is hardly something that is unique to (male) “sub-wannabees”, nor should they be ridiculed for it, IMO.

  12. One, why would a woman want to dom a guy who, once he actually submits, becomes worthless? The current idea of femdom takes squashes the redeeming qualities the dynamic has (as with everything that doesn’t follow the heteronormative narrative) and reduces it to the humiliation of someone intrinsically “greater” being used-n’-abused by someone “lesser”.

    Yeah sure there’s a good number of genuine male subs and slaves that want nothing to do with this warped image of D/s, but the vast majority seem to want the carefully crafted cardboard cutout of a human being that conforms to their every preference and obeys their every whim, only craving a sad caricature of control– one that involves them choreographing every moment of the “scene” that totally negates the point of D/s altogether.

    And yeah, guys* that want to be topped really need to stop subscribing to the manufactured fantasy of submission. Though pop culture and mainstream porn is really to blame for this all-too-common perception.

  13. Allison says:

    Wow, this article really clicked with me. I’ve love fanfic tropes like H/C and woobies in M/M slash for years, but when my first boyfriend asked me to domme for him I was really uncomfortable. Then I actually tried it and it was super hot, and now we switch all the time. I feel like I was masking my interest in the sub guys in the gay bdsm porn I watched by focusing on the dynamics between the top and bottom.

  14. Amphigorey says:

    Off-topic, but man it bugs me that the corset in the photo doesn’t fit the woman. I mean, look at it! Look how far the top sticks out! It’s a terrible fit.

  15. I love the fact that this has no facebook likes. If this were a normal article, it would probably have 50+ likes by now but because it’s about BDSM, it has zero.

    • Well that’s a bit presumptive, and by a bit I mean really. I mean I haven’t ‘liked’ this article, and yet no too long ago I ‘shared’ an article that was advocating that incest between first cousins isn’t actually the problem everyone thinks it is. Which I’m pointing out to emphasize that sometimes people might like an article, and yet not ‘like’ it for no real reason, except that they just didn’t think to do it.

      • It is an entirely accurate statement.

        • Dude, it’s got 0 likes and 20 shares, man. So yeah it’s accurate, technically…but it’s not as if people are hiding that they like the article or whatever.

          And yeah I’m being nit-picky…but I think it’s important to recognize that non-vanilla, non-normative sexual practices are losing their stigma.

          • Losing their stigma and not having a stigma are two completely different things. The stigma is still huge.

  16. First, let me link to both For the Love of Dominance (http://fortheloveofdominance.blogspot.com/?zx=6c3de68575dd917f) and Masculine Submission (http://masculinesubmission.wordpress.com/). I write at both places, and am accompanied by Mistress Delila, my dream-girl and Domme, at the former.

    Second, to address the original post – I don’t think there is any shortage of women who prefer the upper hand in a relationship. I think that most women shrink from openly stating it because of multiple socializations that inhibit such freedom. From my perspective, the generalized idea that power in a healthy relationship is equally split between those involved (this is something that was repeated ad naseum in my psychology classes) is inherently biased. It is also entirely impossible. There is no way two people can be exactly equal in all situations at all times. Someone somewhere has to make a decision that the other isn’t going to be behind 100% and there are some things that people simply do not compromise on.

    This concept of “forced equality” is as damaging and stultifying as any stereotype. It tells people that they are not “normal” and therefore inherently “wrong” when they are simply being authentic. I’ll not chase that rabbit too far, because I want to address other things in the article.

    Re: Domme Deficit – my grandparents, I’ve come to realize, had a pretty clear F/m relationship. She was a tiny thing (5’2″ and 85lbs) and he was huge (he wore a size 14 wedding ring…). They weren’t, to my knowledge, kinky. But he went to work every day and brought her his paycheck on Fridays. She planned their household, paid their bills, arranged their vacation plans…as far as I know, the only thing he decided was which baseball game to watch after he finished his chores on Saturday. And, incidentally, he is one of the most masculine men anyone could dream up – US Marine, POW, oil field worker.

    So there isn’t a deficit of women who are interested in relationship power. There isn’t a deficit of men who want to surrender that power. There is just no real way for these people to meet openly and discover each other. Even kink “culture” makes it difficult to do so. Most kink “communities” appear to be focused more on “play” (meaning kinky activities) than they do on fostering relationships and introducing like-minded people. Yeah, sometimes people hit it off anyway, and that’s great. But the critique remains valid for many kink “communities.”

    Even when communities actually focus on, you know, community, there is the social stigma to deal with. I’ve been berated by dominant women for refusing to go to munches – public outings intended solely for socializing. Well, the fact of the matter is that as a teacher, it could cost me my career. If I have to choose between feeding my kids, but having an unfulfilling sex life; or meeting my soul mate while tossing away twenty years of academic achievement and work so that my kids starve…I’m chosing my kids. Period. Go ahead: Judge me.

    There is also the problem of prescriptive vs. descriptive language. As with any subculture, there is a learning curve for one to master the lingo. This is made even harder by a lack of firm definitions, a bevy of practicioners who say “whatever you want is what it is,” and those who insist that “this is a TRUE submissive/dominant…that is not.” I lost probably six or eight years of my life simply trying to figure out who and what I am. It sucks. It hurts. It’s WRONG!

    I’ll end with this, because I want to throw it in the mix and can’t figure out where else to put it. Dale Rogers, who was married to movie cowboy Roy Rogers, once wrote: “The secret of a happy marriage is not to split responsibility 50/50. It is to realize that it is 70/30. Sometimes I give 70, and sometimes he gives 70.” As far as I’m aware, she wasn’t describing a kinky relationship (they were actually uber-conservative Christians), she was just describing a successful relationship. It gave both people room to be people and to rise to the occasion as necessary.

  17. The alleged stereotypes of dominant women and submissive men r equally silly, and blown out of proportions. As is mostly the response to same. And i’ve never met a femdom or slave holding back on their dominance or submission cos of these stereotypes.

  18. Fergus Mackinnon says:

    A very well written article, which I for one thought raised some intriguing points. The last line made me laugh loud enough I had to explain the joke, which was admittedly somewhat difficult, but thank you for writing this anyway. It’s nice to expand my awareness of the world a little bit each day.

  19. wellokaythen says:

    “By the same logic, the popularity of the NBA with men proves that men are naturally about 6’8″.”

    Loved that sentence. Excellent point.

    As for sub men being the butt of jokes, I’d say that’s pretty true, but the image of them as weak men is kind of nonsensical.

    My stereotype about sexually submissive men is very different. I tend to assume that sub men are in the rest of their lives very dominant, powerful, and commanding in their interactions with others. I always thought that sub roles disproportionately appealed to high-achieving men with a lot of power, and that the sub role in sex was sort of a contrast or compensation or flipside or paradox, not necessarily a reflection of “how weak they really are.” I associate being a sub man with being a powerful politician or hotshot executive or commanding officer or other “alpha” type.

    In a way, it’s not really a paradox, because in a lot of ways the submissive partner is actually the one with more control than the dominant one, from what I understand in the experienced BDSM community. Being submissive is not the same thing as being controlled by someone else. In some ways it’s the opposite.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Should read from “what I understand “about” the experienced BDSM community.” I have to make it clear I’m on the outside looking in, not really speaking from my own experience.

      • The very BEST way to perpetuate stereotypes is to promulgate misinformation about which one has no first hand knowledge and/or has done no legitimate (aka extending beyond the Internet) research. You’re in good company @wellokaythen, a lot of these stereotypes are perpetuated by fiction writers who read other poorly researched fiction and don’t have a clue what BDSM is about. (E.L. James being the perfect example.)

        And, for the record, submissives surrender control (how much varies, of course, a great deal). That’s what D/s is about — power exchange. Bottoms have a great deal of control because they determine what they want done to them and they own the safeword and the ability to stop the scene. But, surrendering control is the expectation of submission (from the dictionary: “the action or fact of accepting or yielding to the will or authority of another person”)

        Take it from someone who actually lives in a D/s relationship and who has first hand knowledge of the community you claim to have observed. (I say claim, because it’s not one that’s easy to learn anything about from outside.) “Being submissive is not the same thing as being controlled by someone else. In some ways it’s the opposite” is probably the most ludicrous statement put forth in this entire conversation.

    • “I always thought that sub roles disproportionately appealed to high-achieving men with a lot of power”

      Unfortunately, this is as much of a stereotype as the “Submissive men are spineless worms” trope. That doesn’t mean that it’s not true in some instances, but I think that we tend to see such cases because those are the ones that are called out in the media in stories like “High priced Manhattan dominatrix and her millionaire clients.”

  20. Doug S. says:

    I’d like to draw your attention to a post on another blog that’s relevant to the topic:

    http://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2010/10/03/do-men-or-women-have-fantasies-of-dominance-and-submission-noh/

    Short excerpt:

    Researchers Patricia Hawley and William Hensley of the University of Kansas performed a fascinating study on dominance and submission fantasies in men and in women. As they point out, what people fantasize about is not necessarily the same as how they actually want to be treated in real life, but fantasies may say something about the types of desires that people hold.

    Hawley and Hensley presented male and female college students with fantasy anecdotes, and asked their participants about their fantasy preferences. They showed the following fantasy to both men and women, also with the genders reversed:

    “There is a guy in your class. He doesn’t know you well, but you have locked eyes before. How can he not notice you? You have sized him up on more than one occasion… On this night you catch his eye at a party. He could feel you staring at him from across the room. Slightly aroused, he decides now is a good time to step out for some air… He was unaware that you followed him, until he felt your hand on his waist. You murmur lustily, “You’re so hot tonight. You make me want you.” His breathing quickens as he attempts to draw away, but you grasp his arm like a vice and it sends a shudder through his body. You pin him against the wall and press your mouth firmly against his. As his resistance fades, it becomes clear to you that this is only going one way…”

    Both males and females were exposed to a version of this fantasy with themselves in the active and passive roles. What would be your guess about which versions of this fantasy were enjoyed by people of each gender?

    • Emmeline says:

      I read the first half of that article and good Lord the quotes were annoying. As a woman who has a whole tumblr folder dedicated to twinks in ballgags, I take umbrage to the whole “ohh, you silly girls, you just want to be dominated”. My regular kink meme would also beg to differ. [/missingthepoint]

      • Doug S. says:

        I’ll just cut to the results then, from part 2, which skips the annoying background material:

        For the first fantasy scene of your classmate pushing you up against the wall after class, here were how men and women rated the fantasies on a 7-point scale:

        Women fantasizing about being in the dominant role – 2.47
        Men fantasizing about being in the dominant role – 3.48
        Women fantasizing about being in the submissive role – 4.16
        Men fantasizing about being in the submissive role – 5.15

        The researchers found the same pattern with the second fantasy, about someone aggressively initiating sex at a party (read my previous post to see the scenario).

        Let’s recap the results we’ve found so far:

        * Women strongly prefer submissive fantasies to dominant ones, and about 57% of women have strongly submissive fantasies at least half the time they fantasize
        * Everyone prefers the fantasy where they get to be the one who is pursued and submissive
        * On average, women find dominant fantasies to be crappy (women rating the female-dominance fantasy gave it a 2.5 out of 7, the worst rating any of the fantasies got)
        * Women like men to be dominant more than men like to be dominant
        * Men like the male-submissive fantasy more than the male-dominant fantasy; 66% of men have submissive fantasies at least half the time
        * Men like the submissive fantasy role even more than women do

        We do have to admit that this was a study of college students. Since college students are a certain slice of the population, we would have to be careful about generalizing from these results… except that other studies have found similar results.

        Just based on this data, I would post-dict that there would indeed be a Domme deficit, as well as a (smaller) Dom deficit…

        • The fallacy in your statement: “Just based on this data, I would post-dict that there would indeed be a Domme deficit, as well as a (smaller) Dom deficit…” is the research is based on FANTASIES. Many people fantasize about rape, but have no desire to be raped. Many people fantasize about tentacle sex, but do not seek out cephalopods to copulate with.

          This is why I believe it is important to distinguish between BOTTOMS (which I define as those who wish to pretend to be submissive for the length of a scene aka fulfilling FANTASIES) and SUBMISSIVES (which I define as those who are willing to cede an agreed upon amount of control to their partner for the length of a relationship).

          There is a surfeit of bottoms looking to explore sexual fantasies by having someone else take control of a scene. They’re fun to play with, but I wouldn’t want to take one home unless he/she also happened to be a submissive. (Part of the problem, is that there are submissive bottoms, submissive tops, dominant tops, dominant bottoms, not to mention switches of all combinations, which can confuse the hell out of everyone.)

          There are, however, a much smaller number of people (especially males) who are willing to knowingly cede power to their partner (even though, as @Tomio Black points out usually one partner cedes some power without acknowledging the exchange). In my experience and that of other FemDoms I know, male submissives are harder to find than female Dominants, perhaps because of the associated societal stigma.

          What the alleged Domme deficit also fails to consider is how many women have simply eschewed partnerships because they do not want a traditional relationship but can’t find a strong, masculine male willing to submit to them. I can tell you from personal experience that one gets tired of the search after a while and gives up.

          • Doug S. says:

            The fallacy in your statement: “Just based on this data, I would post-dict that there would indeed be a Domme deficit, as well as a (smaller) Dom deficit…” is the research is based on FANTASIES.

            Oh, certainly; I basically agree with everything you’ve said here. There’s definitely plenty of divergence between what people fantasize about and what people want in real life. A survey of people who aren’t involved in the BDSM community is rather weak evidence about what to expect in the actual BDSM community, but it’s interesting that the direction matches (“a surfeit of bottoms looking to explore sexual fantasies by having someone else take control of a scene”, as you put it).

  21. When one looks at the pornographic culture that gave us whump, woobies, and hurt/comfort, one sees a kaleidoscope of erotic images of men writhing in torment, crying, begging, suffering beautifully right and left.
    Call me crazy, but I feel like there’s juuuuust a little power dynamic there.

    I can’t believe it never occurred to me that fanfic is proof that women are interested in playing with power dynamics. What I find really interesting about it is that so much of the fanfic that deals with power imbalances in no way resembles conventional BDSM porn. It’s almost like there are plenty of women out there who would be interested in BDSM if only there weren’t figurative ‘GIRLS KEEP OUT’ signs all over it :)

  22. I’ve written before about the research I did into the female gaze, the erotic images of men that women construct for each other outside the commercial structures of “mainstream” porn. The key component of the female gaze, if I may be forgiven an oversimplification for brevity, is vulnerability. It can be subtle, a moment of naked emotional honesty from a man who never shows his inner self.

    Thank you especially for this. Yes, a thousand times yes. Vulnerability is so incredibly unbearably hot. I am a dominant woman and my passion is pegging (strap-on sex). The intense role reversal involved, even without including any other kinks such as feminization or humiliation or impact play, can bring forth such vulnerability in the man as to astonish both partners. I write pegging erotica and I include that vision of a vulnerable, open, receptive male in most of my stories, precisely because it is so hot.

  23. Madeira says:

    I’m a pro-domme, lifestyle sub and I have to say the majority of male-dom kink porn is pretty male gaze oriented too. I want gorgeous androgynous pretty boys encased in PVC and stiletto boots sneering down at groveling female submissives

  24. Actually, as a Dom woman, I find I am the one who feels like a prop. It’s very hard to find men who understand that male submission is actually submission. Being a Domme is not about performance art, it’s about enjoying what I do. This means I should actually be enjoying it. Instead I play online once in awhile but tend to find it very dull in a short time. They don’t understand that performing for them is giving me nothing. I do it when I’m really angry because it is unreality. Giving them the fantasies and fetishes they think they want but have never actually experienced. If there is a Domme deficit there is a much larger submale deficit. I’ve only ever met ONE face to face in more than twenty years of WIITWD.

    • If you’ve never met a submissive man face to face, Laura, you’re hanging in the wrong places. Yes, I’ll admit they’re rare treasures. But, I know many, some in service to friends of mine, some who’ve served me for periods of time over the years.

      For the record, I never “play” online with anyone. This isn’t a game to me and like you, I get nothing out of performance art.

      Also, FYI, it’s possible to find men who will submit not because they see themselves as submissive but because they would do anything to please the women in their lives. My own dear sweet boy isn’t a submissive, bit of a sadistic bastard actually. ;-) He was never involved in the lifestyle before I met him. But, I had him on his knees, in public, within 24 hours of meeting him and we’ve been together ever since.

Trackbacks

  1. […] 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 […]

  2. […] Read this instead. No, really, go read it! Then come back here and we can discuss how awesome it is, k? […]

  3. […] This is a comment by James on the post “Why I Don’t Believe in the Domme Deficit“. […]

  4. […] This is a comment by I.G. Fredricks on the post “Why I Don’t Believe in the Domme Deficit“. […]

  5. […] This is a comment by wellokaythen on the post “Why I Don’t Believe in the Domme Deficit“. […]

  6. […] unlikely event that you haven’t already read it, you should go read Noah Brand’s Why I Don’t Believe In The Domme Deficit, then comment either there or at the post Dishevelled Domina already started. A lot of the post is […]

  7. […] into account and most people don’t talk about such things in polite company.One recent article, “Why I Don’t Believe in The Domme Deficit” by Noah Brand, suggests that those numbers are highly exaggerated.  The piece brings up a number of great points […]

  8. […] as all the rest of us. The problem lies in having an ideal in the first place. Noah Brand’s column on Dommes described the damage done to men and women when we force dominant women into a stereotype corner, […]

  9. […] we even see a good deal of evidence that many women have fantasies about submissive men, men in peril, and men in pain? Surely someone somewhere should be writing a guide to getting these fantasies met. Why when Cosmo […]

  10. […] into other forms of kyriarchial power tropes. On the Good Men Project, Noah Brand tackles “The Domme Deficit“, the community trope that there are more submissive men than there are dominant women with […]

  11. […] into other forms of kyriarchial power tropes. On the Good Men Project, Noah Brand tackles “The Domme Deficit“, the community trope that there are more submissive men than there […]

  12. […] Even in the kink community, gender stereotypes are, at best, socially constructed.  […]

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