At first, John Edale worried about sharing this private aspect of his life in a blog, but has found that coming out as submissive has unexpected benefits.
BDSM is big business these days. Random House, the publisher of Fifty Shades of Grey, posted record profits last year. Retailers of sex toys have reported increased sales of up to 400% for some of the items used by the characters in the book. The ‘Fifty Shades effect’ is apparently even being felt by hardware stores who have seen increased sales of soft rope, and by saddleries who have reported a higher demand for riding crops. There are now countless blogs and websites analysing and discussing all kinds of kinks and fetishes from the perspective of female dominants, male dominants and female submissives.
But in terms of objective analysis, the one voice that is still relatively hard to find is that of the male submissive—men whose sexuality centres upon the idea of being under the control of a powerful female. Men like me for instance.
A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about BDSM, exploring my own feelings. My partner and I had been visiting fetish clubs for a while and most of our friends already knew something about our interests, so the blog should have been just one more step in the process of ‘coming out.’ But when it was finished and online, even though I had avoided any graphic detail, I still found I had serious doubts about whether I really wanted to have that kind of information out there. There was a part of me that still thought that having submissive feelings just wasn’t the kind of thing that any self-respecting man should admit to.
But in the end I left the blog online anyway, and discovered over time that it had some unexpected and ultimately beneficial effects on my life.
I am often quite awkward in social situations, both with people I do know and people I don’t. Initially I thought that having a blog about my sexuality publicly available might make this even worse. However I discovered that if I imagined whoever I was talking to had just read the blog then, instead of feeling more uncomfortable, I actually felt better, regardless of what I thought their reaction might be. By leaving the blog where it was I had shown I had nothing to hide.
The second odd effect was that my BDSM fantasy world began to bleed into my normal everyday reality in a way which made me realise just how compartmentalized everything had previously been. At first this led to me having rather conflicting feelings whenever I had to deal with any kind of female authority figure.
At the time I was in regular communication with the Inland Revenue who had become concerned about aspects of my recent tax returns. When I spoke to the female Compliance Officer in charge of my case, the worries I had about the trouble I might be in were often mixed with an unbidden and unhelpful feeling of enjoyment at the power she might have over me.
Thankfully over time this response became more diluted and easier to step back from, and I discovered that there was an opposite reaction as well. Now that my big secret was out, and some of tension had gone from some of my social encounters, I found that I was more able to show the kind of confident, everyday respect for women which had never come easily to me in the past.
Writing the blog also enabled me to continue to explore some of the mental health questions which are often associated with an interest in BDSM, and which I had felt were entangled with my own desires and fantasies.
It is still a commonplace assumption amongst mental health professionals that most sexual fetishes and kinks are disorders in themselves. When I had decided to seek help I had taken care to find a counsellor who would have a more open minded approach (for anyone in the UK, the Pink Therapy Directory is a useful resource for this.)
From the therapy I have received, I do not believe that my own submissiveness is a mental health issue at all. The problems which I always associated with it resulted instead from the years I spent trying to repress that side of me, or to find a way to ‘cure’ myself.
There are a lot of male subs around. In most BDSM forums and contact sites they seem to considerably outnumber the dommes. So why do they rarely speak out in public?
I think a particular problem for male subs is that submissiveness is often seen to be synonymous with weakness, and specifically a form of weakness that it is not socially acceptable for men to have. But I have found that the more open I am the stronger I feel. It takes strength also, in private, to trust another person with your fantasies and to submit yourself in turn to theirs.
Roleplaying can feel like a healthy and enjoyable workout for your sexuality, but only if you are happy with who you are and what you want. So if there are any secret male subs reading this, why not come out and explore? There’s plenty of room for everybody.
Image credit: AndYaDontStop/Flickr