Or, yet another followup on the subject of submission and masculinity.
This post will make much more sense if you’ve read my last two posts, where I talked about how we tend to conflate submission and femininity and the horrible consequences that has, particularly for submissive men. You might also want to have a look at this post by Rachelcq, this one by Peroxide, as well as Bitchy Jones’s and maymay’s entire blogs, as they’re already said everything I’m going to.
Now that we’re more or less on the same page about all the shit that submissive men go through outside of the scene, let’s talk about what happens when they get into the scene.
The BDSM scene likes to promote itself as a utopia where everyone is welcomed with open arms. That’s a nice idea, but how young, female, and attractive you are makes a lot of difference in your reception in the scene. Whether you’ll like the (quite possibly predatory) attention is a separate issue, but in the kink scene some people are more equal than others.
Submissive men are definitely some of the ‘less equal’. They post in a group on Fetlife or another forum, or come to a munch or a workshop or a party, and discover that the welcoming committee they were told to expect has no interest in them. Whether you’re a top or a bottom, if you have tits everyone in the scene wants to be your new best friend. If you’re a male top, you can impress people with how hard you play or how intricate your rope work is or how strict of a master you are. But if you’re a male sub, you’ll slam right into everyone’s discomfort with men who don’t fit neatly into the man box. Rather than deal with their own issues around gender, it’s not at all unusual for people to either avoid dealing with male subs or to subconsciously push them away.
That’s bad enough, but male subs are also considered a dime a dozen. Like I’ve said before, I don’t believe for a second that there are that many more submissive men than there are women who could enjoy dominance if it didn’t have such a horrible image problem, but that doesn’t stop people from saying that there are tens or hundreds of submissive men for every dominant woman, or make it easier for any particular submissive man to find a partner. Hear enough stories about how hard it is to find a woman who actually likes submissive men, especially when those stories line up with everything you’ve ever been taught about what a man should be and how you’ve failed, and of course you’re going to believe you’re destined to die alone.
Then, like TomCatoNineLives commented on my last post:
The point is that these ideas, rotten as they are, aren’t out of accord with the lived experiences of many, if not most, sub guys. And one of the worst parts is that they’re self-perpetuating, because when you can’t believe that someone would be attracted to you, if and when it that does happen, you’ll easily find ways to screw it up. (Not reciprocating for fear that I’d look stupid; getting jealous, possessive, needy, or suspicious; or having a fatalistic “it won’t last so I won’t get too attached” attitude are all things I’ve done in the past in those circumstances.) When that does happen, it only becomes further confirmation of how undesirable you are.
Tell someone enough times that they’re worthless, that they could be replaced by any hundred other people, and of course they’ll start to believe it. Then it comes true, thanks to self-loathing being such an incredible turn off (at least to anyone who isn’t a predator). And blatant scammers like “fidoucheiary dommes” (to use FelixSulla’s term) being the only ones to show an interest in male subs can’t be helping matters.
Another horrible consequence of the idea that there is such a surplus of submissive men is the “submission olympics”, the need to prove that you are the most submissivest of them all if you ever want to find a real live dom of your very own. Given the issues I’ve already talked about with submission and masculinity, this seems to result in this awful race to the bottom with men competing to display the most self-loathing possible and do everything they can to turn off women who actually like submissive men. When that inevitably fails to attract a partner, it’s just more proof that being a submissive man proves you’re unlovable.
To quote from my own reply to TomCatoNineLives’ comment above:
I hate to say it, but one of the things I really like about how my boyfriend doesn’t identify as submissive but acts submissive toward me is that he hasn’t been chewed up and spit out by the scene.
As much as I love submissive men, the idea of being wanted just because I’m the first real live dom to pay attention to them does nothing for me. Desperation and self-loathing are also huge turns offs, as understandable as it is that submissive men would end up that way. I just want someone who likes me, not someone I have to convince that they’re a worthwhile human being. Sad to say, it was easier for me to find that outside of the scene than within it.
God only knows how much more damage I’ll do by saying that, but there’s no use lying about it. The kink scene can damage submissive men so badly that not even dominant women find them attractive. It’s not fair, it’s not their fault, but it happens. And without a magic wand to wave to get people to let go of everything they’ve ever learned about gender roles, I have no fucking idea how to fix it.
10 thoughts on “Toxic”
Until recently I thought it axiomatic that male submission represented the ‘queering’ or subversion of patriarachal oppression – on one level a refusal to conform to stereotypical notions of male sexuality and ‘masculinity’.
It’s clear that this is not necessarily the case. The degree of self-hatred that you have rightly identified bears witness to the success that patriarchy has in forcing both men and women to introject its toxic cultural and linguistic constructs.
The moral? We need to be much more mindful of the implications of what we do when we play in the ‘sandbox’ of Ds.
How to fix things? Education, education, education. Thanks for your efforts in that department.
One thing I’ve discovered with Fetlife is that these kinds of gender-fixed roles ideas are everywhere in the community, and that it gets pretty nasty when you try to rub against it.
However, because of Fetlife, a lot of this is coming out to the light of day instead of being hidden in subcultures like it has for the past forever, so there is a much higher chance of it being confronted and changed, much like this kind of sexist ideology is confronted and changed in open society.
Thanks for the hat-tip Stabbity, despite this being such a depressing topic.
I’ve never been sure what to make of the “twenty sub guys for every dominant female” idea, whether it’s objectively true or not. I’ve never seen the logic of the Bitchy Jones rebuttal that there must, for some reason, be equivalent or nearly-equivalent numbers of potentially sub men and dom women out there, when such a claim doesn’t seem to fit common observation and experience at all. Whatever the objective reality is though in the demographics, the fact that everyone seems to believe and act as if it’s true effectively makes the question whether there actually are or aren’t a lot of potential dominant women who just never show up a distinction without a difference. As I said before: not out of accord with the lived experiences of many people who’ve explored the scene.
I think “fixing” it, or better yet, preventing it, is probably something that has to happen on an individual level, many times over. I’ve been trying on my own when and where I can to mentor and to “vaccinate” newer people in the scene, most particularly sub guys and potential dominant women I meet, about what to expect and to try to encourage them to be patient, preserve and nourish their sense of self-worth, and to find what they’re looking for by attracting it and by playing to their own individual strengths. I think maybe that people who recognize this problem and who want to do something about it can do a lot on an individual level if they’re willing to make the investment in people. I see that as probably paying off a lot more readily than trying to figure out how to take on amorphous and impersonal constructs like gender roles or “the culture” as a whole.
I’ve been trying on my own when and where I can to mentor and to “vaccinate” newer people in the scene, most particularly sub guys and potential dominant women I meet, about what to expect and to try to encourage them to be patient, preserve and nourish their sense of self-worth, and to find what they’re looking for by attracting it and by playing to their own individual strengths. I think maybe that people who recognize this problem and who want to do something about it can do a lot on an individual level if they’re willing to make the investment in people.
I think this is really really important. I know that for me personally just having the blogs out there that there are now (which I don’t think were here five years ago, or at least I wasn’t aware of them) has really helped me. Just to have a concept of what other dom women think, to have role models, and to hear from submissive men in a more holistic context than just what their kinks are–what y’all think and feel and want. It turns out we’re all people and that’s a lot less scary than trying to be Domly Dom (as Ferns would say)…and yet just having someone who has been there before and knows some of the pitfalls is hugely helpful.
I don’t really play in the local “scene” or go to munches, partly because I never clicked with anyone the few times I did try it, partly because big groups rarely work for me. But if I did, I think it would be invaluable to have someone there saying things like, Just because you aren’t into M/f doesn’t mean there’s no place for you, or If you aren’t sure what you want yet, that’s also okay, or any of these other good things. Same for sub guys, I imagine. Derailing some of the toxicity before it can take too much root.
How else do we know who we are unless we see it modelled? Yes, we all have our own individual identities, it’s not like we’re copying each other, but we’re also social creatures and especially if we’re trying to establish a counter-narrative to the big patriarchal one that gets pushed on us all the time…well, micro-aggressions have to be countered with micro-positives, I think.
Hello I found your blog and I am a submissive or a swtich don’t know I am still in the process of finding myself. I fell into the trap of feeling worthless i read you other blogs and I was caught in the cuckold fetish because it played on all of my self loathing. It felt like despite my submissive side and escaping to something non mainstream I was still at mercy of gender expectations. It wasn’t till later that I have started to take pride in my submissive side. I try to make so that it is a part of me and not a complete definition of myself. It is a on going process and I have had some “relapse” but it has done be so much better.
Finding your blog was really helpful I was a lurker for a while and reading your post was helpful in me staving off my self loathing. Honestly you don’t need a magic wand to get rid of the gender roles. condition s and expectations that I have and guys like me been subjective too because that is too good to be true.
The fact that you understand and feel for guys carries a lot of weight and your words were very helpful in my journey of self acceptance. Your words are a hay of empathy in the needle stack of confinement that is the internet.
Yay! I’m glad I could help. It really is sad that even in the kink scene, where we’re supposedly so open-minded, people still expect men to be doms (or considered defective) and women to be subs.
“I just want someone who likes me, not someone I have to convince that they’re a worthwhile human being.”
I’d never thought this before about dominant women, that they could be looking for someone who likes them, and is also submissive. Of course I’d been wondering what dominant women get out of a relationship with a submissive guy. But if it’s something like being liked for who they are, getting affection, that makes it sound much less scene-y and much more like a relationship value. And it makes sense that if all guys have to offer is low self-esteem that doesn’t make them attractive at all. Which is actually really encouraging to me because affection is something I could definitely offer, in certain ways, to a woman.
What I’m still puzzled about it is how a guy who has a submissive personality, and has a sense of self-worth, shows it submissively in a way that’s attractive, e.g. doesn’t just ask for pain, humiliation, etc. I’ll keep reading!
That’s what I’ve always wondered about the “worthless worm” stereotype. What on earth am I supposed to get out of that?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking for those things, but there’s definitely a problem if those are the only things you ask for and the only things you think you deserve.
As for expressing submission, I recommend being selective (I don’t get to feel special if the guy who offers me his submission just offered it to every other woman at the party), and just expressing affection to a potential partner in a relaxed and submissive way. That is, the sweetest gesture comes off all wrong if it’s done out of desperation and a belief that you have to hang on to this dominant woman because who knows if another one will ever give you the time of day.