Submission and Masculinity: Part 2

Since I talked about the way we conflate submission and femininity last week, let’s talk about some more of the consequences of that idiocy this week.

If submission is fundamentally feminine, then acting more feminine is both a way to make a person more submissive and a way to display how submissive you are. I think this is one of the reasons the whole sissy thing is so common. If the only way you know of to be submissive is to be feminine, of course you’re going to assume you need to be more feminine. Just ignore the details of what I actually want, as a straight woman attracted to masculinity. Not that I’m bitter about the stupid gender roles that convince submissive men that they should dress and act in the way most likely to turn me off.

Of course, there’s more going on there, like the idea that fetishes can come from fears. What’s scarier than not being manly enough? In some ways sissification is just another form of small penis humiliation or cuckolding, an eroticized fear. It’s probably not a coincidence that those three kinks so often go together.

Speaking of cuckolding, one of the things that makes that such a common trope in the female dom, male sub world is the idea that a submissive man isn’t a real man, therefore a dominant woman needs a “real” man to sexually satisfy her. Humiliation and an intense demonstration of how powerless he is for the sub, a good fuck for the dom, what’s not to love? Lots.

For starters, I’m hugely offended by the idea that all women are sexually submissive at heart and can only be satisfied by being dominated in bed. Also thoroughly offensive is the idea that submissive men are too weak and girly to provide a woman with a good hard fuck. Newsflash: being submissive doesn’t mean your muscles magically atrophy. What is so goddamn complicated about the idea that giving it to your woman in whatever position she likes until she’s good and done with you is a submissive act? If you’re doing it exclusively on your dom’s say so, it’s not a dominant act. I’d rant more about the idea that any act is fundamentally dominant or submissive, but that’s a separate post.

Back at the issues with submission being equated with femininity, it seems like a common part of being submissive is the desire to be desired, as in these quotes:

Axe“Maybe that’s why I respond so strongly to being objectified as a sex-object. Something wanted and desired so badly that she can’t help but just fucking take me. “

Peroxide“One of the big draws of D/s for me is that I see Dominance as an expression of desire, hand over all the control to my partner and she still wants me, wants my body, that’s incredibly hot.”

(To give credit where it’s due, I swiped those quotes from D‘s awesome post about how desire works in her relationship, which I highly recommend reading.)

It makes total sense that submissive people of any gender would want to be desirable. As I understand it, to be submissive is to want to be pleasing to your partner. It’s a lovely idea, but it gets all twisted and rotten where an interest in power exchange meets our culture’s deeply fucked up ideas about gender and desire.

If women are the only ones who can ever be desired, then to be desirable you  have to be feminine. Given the lack of any examples of male desirability, it makes sense to assume that the only way you’ll ever get to hear about how hot you are, how delicious you look, is to make yourself feminine. It’s just heartbreaking to me to think that so many submissive men believe the only way they can be seen as beautiful is to force themselves to be something they’re not. It’s especially sad given that for me, masculine submission is the hottest thing there is.

Thanks to our fucked up ideas about gender, submissive men get to think they’re not real men, that they’re unfuckable, unlovable, pathetic, and good for nothing but being humiliated about their lack of manhood while their partners fuck other people. Gee, I can’t imagine why submissive men would have so much trouble accepting the fact that they’re submissive.

Submission and Masculinity

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.

How to introduce your partner to femdom

A companion piece to ‘How NOT to introduce your partner to femdom‘.

If Elise Sutton has it all wrong, how should you introduce your partner to femdom? I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I can hardly do worse then ‘Elise’.

For starters, where Elise says “all women are a potential Dominatrix”, what you really need to do is accept the exact opposite. All women are most certainly not potential doms. You can cling to the fantasy that you can mold your wife/girlfriend/significant other into whatever you like, or you can actually communicate with this person you claim to care about, but you simply cannot have both. This is the point where I expect to lose most of the men who want to know how to introduce their partners to femdom – unlike Elise, I’m not going to tell you comforting lies.

It’s possible your wife will love domination once you introduce her to it. It’s also possible that she will never develop an interest in power exchange, or that she’ll love power exchange but only from the submissive side, or that she’ll hate the whole idea and think you’re a freak for asking for it. There’s no way I or anyone else could possibly know whether your wife will ever develop an interest in domination without knowing her personally. If anyone tells you otherwise, I recommend asking yourself what they have to gain by telling you what you want to hear.

To rag on Elise some more, when she says:

You begin by treating her like a Queen. You begin by serving her as if she was already the dominant woman of your dreams. Be humble and submissive around her. Don’t argue with her, don’t yell at her, and don’t give her any back talk. Your purpose in your relationship is to serve her. What she says goes, so be quick to agree with her.

No! You start by talking to your wife like she’s a fucking person! I don’t mean to downplay how scary it is to tell the woman you love something about yourself that might disgust her, but if you take Elise’s advice all you’re going to do is make your wife wonder what you’ve done to feel guilty about.

This is going to sound kind of backwards, but I recommend telling strangers on the internet first. The reason I recommend that is because being more comfortable with your kinks will make it easier to tell someone else about them without the conversation sounding like you’re telling her you have cancer (credit to Dan Savage for that analogy). That is, the way you talk about your kink will affect how your partner reacts. If you act like it’s this terrible disgusting character flaw, she’s more likely to be freaked out by it. If you act like it’s a fun thing you’d like to try, she’s less likely to be freaked out.

Talking with other kinky people is a good way to get comfortable with your kink, and strangers on the internet are the least terrifying people to talk with. If they think you’re a terrible disgusting freak (not that they will, but it’s natural to worry about it), it’s not as if it’s going to affect your life in any way. Just make up a new nickname and try again.

To be fair, I should point out that if your wife finds out you told people on the internet you were kinky before you told her, her feelings are likely to be hurt. However, unless she has an especially close-minded and rigid worldview, she’ll understand that it’s easier to tell your secrets to a stranger than to someone who’s opinion means more to you than anyone else’s. I don’t have any really good advice for that situation beyond playing up the whole ‘of course I was scared to tell you, your opinion of me is more important than anyone else’s, and I’d be absolutely devastated if you thought I was a freak.”

Even if you don’t actually post on any forums, you should really do some reading, particularly of what actual dominant women have to say. There is approximately a shit ton of information out there about how to treat a dominant woman, and you should take it into account whether or not your partner turns out to be dominant. In particular, just about every ‘how to approach dominant women’ guide out there talks about how actual domination is not solely about your dick. If you want your wife to service top you, it’s absolutely okay to ask for that! Honestly, that’s probably a less scary thing to ask for than something as vague as “I want you to dominate me”. However, if you tell her you want her to be in control, then ask her to act out a scene to your exact specifications, she’s bound to be a little confused about what you meant by “I want you to take charge.”

To quote Dev’s comment on maymay’s post “Finally! Something that speaks to dominant women” they said

Not every woman is going to enjoy being dominant anyway. We have our own sexualities too. But for a woman who might, or could, or does enjoy being dominant, it has to be based on what’s in it for her. Otherwise she’s just doing you a favor, which is fine, but then at least don’t make her lie about it, please.

Asking your partner to do you a favour is absolutely fine, but asking her to pretend she’s in charge when your dick is really the one running the show is kind of a dick move, pun intended.

Assuming you really do want her to take control, you’re going to need to explain what’s in it for her. If the two of you happen to be comfortable talking to another person about something so personal and you can afford a session with a prodom, having one show her exactly what she can get out of domination can be an especially compelling way to explain it.

As Mistress Matisse says in her post Playing with Couples:

This week I did one of my favorite things: I showed a woman how to top her husband.

There is always a moment in the session when something falls into place in the woman’s mind and she gets it. You can see it in her face: Ohhhh… I’m the mistress. I get what I want. You have to please me.

Of course, most people can’t afford to drop upwards of $200 an hour on a hobby, not to mention the stigma around seeing a sex worker, so this clearly is only going to work for a minority of people. Still, I think there’s something in getting personalized help from someone who already enjoys domination. If you’re both able to and interested in joining the local scene, there’s probably someone out there who’d love to teach your wife how much fun domination can be. There are a lot of kinky people out there who enjoy feeling like Mistress Know-it-all, font of knowledge and savior of newbies 🙂 Honestly, I’m one of them. Plus we all remember what it was like to be new and uncertain, and want to help out people who remind us of ourselves when we first discovered kink.

But before you get into personal demonstrations, you’ve got to get over the hurdle of discussing kink at all. This may seem a little disingenuous, but I’d avoid using terms like domination, submission, BDSM unless you know your partner is especially open-minded. On top of having negative connotations for a lot of people, those words are so vague they’re pretty much useless when you’re talking with someone new to this whole thing. If you tell someone who’s hardly even heard of kink that you want her to dominate you, she’s not likely to understand what it is you actually want her to do. If you tell her you love it when she tells you exactly what she wants in bed, that’s going to make a lot more sense.

And for the love of god, start with baby steps. No one is going to be comfortable spending a whole weekend ordering you around and using you like her personal fucktoy when you’ve only just introduced her to kink. If you ask for that, you’re just setting her up to fail. Start with mixing a little dominance into sex sometimes, and if she likes it, go from there.

Finally, ask about her fantasies too. Surely you didn’t think you were the only one with sexual needs, did you?

Accepting Service

Not so long ago Amy of Lipstick & Ligature wrote a post called “Some random musings on being a woman, being dominant, and being human” where she made a really interesting point:

1. We’re great about talking about how rough submissive men have it and while that’s true I wish there was more said about the fears of dominant women. I’m afraid I won’t be good enough, or harsh enough or tender enough. I’m worried I’ll be too greedy or not forward enough. I don’t want to hurt you but I do.

I have to admit I do find it a lot easier to talk about how rough submissive men have it than about the things I personally struggle with. Feeling vulnerable is not exactly my favourite thing ever, and vulnerability doesn’t always mesh well with my usual writing process of getting angry about something and ranting until I feel better. But dominant women’s struggles are important, and I feel like a hypocrite for saying dominant women should be allowed to be vulnerable while acting like it’s not okay to be vulnerable on my blog, so I’m going to try to even things up a bit.

One thing I really struggled with before the ridiculously adorable boyfriend gave me a whole lot of practice was accepting service. On the surface that sounds really silly. I mean, how hard can it possibly be to let someone do nice things for you?

Pretty hard, as it turns out. Particularly for women, given all the cultural programming we get around being nice, sweet, and helpful, not lazy, bossy, and demanding. There’s also the way our culture vilifies women who don’t “do their part” as high-maintenance, or users, or generally not good enough. Have you ever noticed that basically every example of a woman who lets other people do more work than she does is either evil or royalty? Evil can be a fun fantasy, but I’d like to get through my day without feeling like a huge jerk and I highly doubt I’m going to be crowned queen of anything any time soon. It’s actually profoundly uncomfortable to just sit still and let someone bring you a cup of tea if you’re busy worrying about whether he only refused help to be polite and secretly thinks you’re a huge bitch for not insisting on pitching in and oh god you’re a terrible girlfriend and he’s going to leave you for someone who’s not too lazy to make her own damn tea.

It’s also easy to feel like you’re just using someone if you don’t fundamentally get what service submissives enjoy about serving. On an intellectual level I understand that it feels good to do something nice for someone you’re close to, but I just don’t understand the kind of relentless, freakish niceness the boyfriend shows me. Seriously, it’s just weird 🙂

In some ways identifying as dominant may make the insecurity even worse, since “real” doms are supposed to be perfectly sure of themselves at all times and good at everything. If you can’t even accept service and feel comfortable, how can you even call yourself a dom? God forbid we have feelings and insecurities like real people.

So, given all the good reasons women have to be uncomfortable accepting service, and the total lack of non-villainous examples to follow, how the hell do you get comfortable letting someone serve you?

I’m not saying I’m perfect at it, but what helped me get a whole lot better was practice,  starting small, and positive reinforcement. Anything is going to feel a little weird the first time you do it, but once you do it a few times the weirdness starts wearing off. In my case the boyfriend has made me so many cups of tea that it actually feels pretty normal to let him do it.

Starting small is also really important. No-one’s going to feel perfectly comfortable letting her boy spend hours helping her move when she’s not even used to him making her a simple weeknight dinner. Something like a cup of tea or being asked if you’d like anything from the kitchen while he’s up is a lot easier to get used to.

Finally, positive reinforcement is probably the single most helpful thing you can do to for someone who wants to learn to accept service. You don’t necessarily have to say the words “I really love serving you”, but you need to show that serving makes you happy.If I’m certain that someone enjoys making themselves useful, it’s a lot easier for me to accept that it’s just the way they show affection, not me using them.

Showing a little disappointment if she turns down service can give her an excuse to accept, but use this one sparingly unless for some reason you want her to associate offers of service with feeling like a jerk no matter what she does. I mention this one only because it worked on me. As it happens, I can totally be steered if you make even a token effort to be clever about it. Using the ridiculously adorable boyfriend as an example again, early in our relationship he successfully guilted me into letting him do nice things for me. I had a nasty cold, and normally I hate letting people see me when I’m sick but the boyfriend sounded so sad that he couldn’t do anything for me that I gave in and let him bring me some chicken soup and apple juice. It helped that I felt like death and really, really wanted that apple juice, but still. This was when I lived a 15 minute drive away from him and he rode his bike everywhere, so it took some work to convince me to let him help. When he got to my place and made me some soup he was just so happy to help me feel a little better that I couldn’t feel like a jerk for letting him bike across town.

After nearly three years of practice, I feel pretty good about accepting at least some service. But it took a lot of practice, so don’t feel bad or like you’re not cut out to be a dom if you’re not instantly perfect at letting people serve you. It’s perfectly normal to feel weird and like you might be a bit of a jerk at first.

Moderation note: after what happened last time, I want to be entirely clear that this is a post about how women struggle with accepting service. Derailing comments about how men struggle too and men are obviously more important and why aren’t we talking about men?! will be deleted.