One of my many, many pet peeves with the kink scene is the conflation of submission and femininity. Aside from my own irritation with it, it probably causes most of the trouble submissive men have accepting themselves, and with coming out as submissive to their partners.
So what the fuck is with assuming that submission and femininity are linked? Well, as much as we like to tell ourselves that the scene is the special magical place where we can be ourselves without worrying about what society tells us we should be, any subculture is still a product of the host culture it grew in. And the host culture, in this case, has some seriously fucked up ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman and how the twain must never ever meet.
There’s this idea that to be a woman is to be delicate and pretty and submissive, and to be a man is to be rugged and strong and dominant. If you grow up in a culture like this, it’s hard to avoid absorbing the idea that submission is fundamentally feminine and domination is fundamentally masculine. I’m not saying it isn’t stupid and wrong to assume those things are inextricably linked, just that it’s a reality of the culture we live in.
As long as everyone stays in their boxes nobody has to think about how stupid those rigid little boxes are, but when people do anything the least bit similar to something in the ‘wrong’ box, everyone freaks out. Given the way we worship masculinity and revile femininity, it’s considered sort of understandable, if not precisely approved of, for women to try to be like men but if a man tries to be the least bit feminine, well clearly that’s the end of the fucking world.
And that’s where submissive men get thrown into so much trouble. If submission is fundamentally feminine, but these men are submissive, then instead of questioning the validity of these stupid gender roles we assume that they’re not real men. Even worse, submissive men assume they’re not real men, that being submissive means they’ve failed at being a man and now have to give up all of their masculine traits, not just the ones that aren’t working for them. I see question after question on fetlife from men who don’t understand how they can be submissive and not want to be feminized or called a worthless worm.
Speaking of which, I believe that’s where the worthless worm thing comes from. If a man can’t be a “real” man (that is, dominant), he must be somehow subhuman, good for nothing, worthless. How can we keep everything rolling along the way it always has and keep from having to think any uncomfortable thoughts if we don’t slap down anyone who dares step outside their box?
Male domination and female submission don’t involve anyone trying to step outside of the cramped little boxes society’s gender roles create. Female domination and especially male submission completely trash those boxes, which is terribly uncomfortable for people who want to believe that there’s just one way to be a man and they’re doing it right, that it was worth it to cut off all those pieces of themselves so they could fit in the man box.
Given the fear of not being manly enough and the way we devalue everything even slightly “feminine”, of course submissive men worry that no one will ever love them. And of course people who aren’t already critical of stupid gender roles believe what they’re been told all their lives about what it means to be a man. As hideously unfair as it is to assume that submissive men are broken, it’s kind of a tall order to ask someone to instantly throw out everything they’ve ever believed about what a man is supposed to be. I’m not saying it’s fair, but everyone needs a little time to adjust when they get a shock like that.
Anyway, the point of all this rambling is that it’s fucking stupid to assume that submission and masculinity are incompatible. Come on, people. What’s more masculine than showing off how much pain you can take? Or more gentlemanly than devoting yourself to making your partner happy? Or more courageous than opening up completely to someone?
For me, submissiveness and masculinity are two great tastes that taste great together. If you don’t want to mix masculinity and submission that’s absolutely fine, but if you think they can’t mix, you can go fuck yourself.
Moderation note: there will be no whining in the comments about how masculinity is practically a dirty word these days and how can I possibly think femininity is devalued when everything is so easy for women lately. Problem comments will be edited or deleted.