Gender roles and dominance

In any group, forum, or blog about female dominance or male submission, sooner or later the topic of gender roles and dominance comes up. Questions like how do gender role expectations affect your submission / dominance? Does it put a limit on your practice or does it encourage you to explore further? Or doesn’t it matter at all? are something we all have to think about, even if many of us end up sticking our heads in the sand and yelling “La la la I can’t hear you.”

It irritates the shit out of me when people try to side-step that entire discussion by saying that somehow they’re magically unaffected by the gender role expectations of the culture they’ve grown up in. No, you lying liars who lie, you’ve goddamn well been affected by what society told you about how to be a man or a woman. Even if you are extraordinarily self-possessed and have never once felt like a freak or a failure as a woman or man because of your kink, you are aware that you’re going against what society expects of you and that some people will reject you for it. Congratulations, gender role expectations have had an affect on you!

For people who aren’t busy lying to themselves, of fucking course gender roles affect how comfortable you are with your kink if you’re a submissive man or a dominant woman. Seriously, how many posts have I alone written about how much shit submissive guys get for being submissive? Gender role expectations are especially rough on submissive men, and pretending they aren’t is a waste of everyone’s time. We can’t have a conversation about how harmful it is to try and force yourself into the man box or the woman box if we can’t admit the box exists in the first place, and we as a culture really fucking need to have that conversation. As well as keeping so many submissive men from enjoying their sexuality, toxic masculinity literally kills men. Men die of depression and of treatable diseases because it’s not manly to talk about your feelings or go to the doctor when you feel a little off. And of course toxic masculinity kills women too, but I’m trying to focus on how gender role expectations directly harm men.

Submissive men often struggle enormously to accept their submission because it’s impossible to both be submissive and fit into the man box. These guys are stuck either feeling like failures as men or doing the enormously difficult work of redefining what manhood means to them. Pretending that not everyone goes through this struggle just makes the guys who are going through it right now feel like shit, so cut it the fuck out.

Dominant women struggle too, just in different ways. At least we have the stereotype of the sexy dominatrix to tell us that it’s okay to be a little bit aggressive in bed as long as we’re conventionally attractive and don’t do anything too weird and don’t insist on having any real power. I’m not saying the stereotype doesn’t suck a whole lot, but women are told that it’s possible to be a little bit dominant and still be desirable where submissive men get told they’re completely worthless.

So dominant women do have it easier than submissive men, but things still suck for us. The woman box says we’re supposed to sweet and nurturing and patient, which makes it pretty fucking tough to want to beat your partner with a cane and still be a good woman. Pursuing men is often seen as acting like a man and scares off many of the men we’re interested in. Demanding any actual power suddenly transforms us from sexy vixens into emasculating bitches, and god fucking forbid we should expect submissive men to ever see us as real people with thoughts and feelings that have nothing to do with their boners. Spend five minutes on any forum, group, or message board frequented by dominant women and you’ll hear us howling that we’re people, not kink vending machines or life support systems for a whip. I think the biggest problem dominant women have with gender role expectations is “submissive” men who expect us to dominate them exactly when, how, and where they want because that’s what women are for, right? We couldn’t possibly like things our male partners have no interest in. We couldn’t possibly be dominant because it turns us on, not because it turns men on. We couldn’t possibly expect to be treated like people first and doms second.

Literally all of us have to fight against society’s gender role expectations. Don’t make the struggle harder by pretending it doesn’t exist.

5 thoughts on “Gender roles and dominance

  1. This should be required reading on any of the forums with pretensions to a serious discussion of BDSM issues.

    Of course submissive men get severely sanctioned in a culture that is still dominated by gender stereotypes because male submission is implicitly a direct challenge to those stereotypes. In fact it subverts them, or at least it should.

    In the past, the bulk of the gender sanctions that were used to enforce conformity were applied against gay men and women, but particularly men. Male submissiveness, and BDSM generally were largely under the radar. Society’s moral panic was largely about homosexuality. Until 1963 it was illegal to be homosexual in the UK, a fact that was used to justify the disgusting treatment meted out to Alan Turing, among others (as alluded to in the recent movie).

    Paradoxically, many submissive men don’t seem to realize how they are insidiously affected by the very culture that oppresses them because their view of submission, and themselves, is mediated by that culture. Hence, tragically, we see submissive men whose expectations of dominant women, and themselves, simply recycle the very gender stereotypes that oppress all of us, both women and men, as you point out.

    And finally, a nice quote from feminist writer Lynne Segal that exposes the egregious lie of fixed gender roles:

    “…there are gentle, caring, celibate, submissive, unassertive, dependent and passive men, just as there are lusty, authoritative, aggressive, insensitive, dominating, independent and assertive women. We all criss-cross these supposedly gendered lines, displaying greater variation within our own sex than between sexes…”

  2. I agree with your observations about gender roles. It is generally hard for anyone of either gender to admit to their submissiveness, much less to engage in a relationship with someone who is dominant. It’s easier to sail along with the gender stereotypes, even if they are unsatisfying. Thankfully people like you shed some light on the subject.

  3. Gender roles are always unfair as they limit everyone.

    It is difficult at times being a submissive male but in the end we are who we are. You can complain about it or just do the best with what you’ve got.

    I don’t ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist. In fact if you listen to my podcasts, Ardor’s Erotic Reflections, you’ll see that I often talk about “gender politics.”

  4. Love this, and as a Domme-inclined switch, I find myself struggle sometimes with switching between roles and still being “human”. I love, I hurt, I feel shit at times. The pressure I feel to always wear my Domme hat when I’m approached by submissive men is overwhelming. I’ve had to shut down so many because I really can’t be Cruella DeVille 24/7.

    Sure, I have a deliciously sadistic streak and I damn well love calling you names and making you crawl around the house, or beating your ass till it’s beautiful shades of purple streaked with blood for my own pleasure – BUT I also like having fun, and I’d really like to enjoy spending time with my sub NOT being a Mistress. Let’s have a debate every now and then, learn something new outside our kink. Whatever it is, let’s not forget that we are not 100% our roles, and that there are other aspects of who we are that matter just as much as our kinks.

    Thank you for this post!

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