FemDom: The BDSM Scene Outsider?

FemDom is the Marmite of the BDSM world. Female Domination usually elicits a response firmly on one end of the scale or the other: yes please! or …um, no thanks. While female submission has been warmly embraced by the masses, with sexualised imagery of restrained women now prevalent even in mainstream music and film media, FemDom is still viewed as extremely niche.

FemDom: The BDSM Scene Outsider? Why The Fear of Female Dominance

Why is this, and does it have anything to do with historic and current social attitudes towards men and women?

I’m convinced that the overall reticent attitude towards FemDom is, at least in part, due to traditionally accepted gender roles and the way the genders have been viewed by society. And yes, for these purposes I am talking about male and female, because it’s only in recent times we’ve come to understand that there aren’t only two genders and not everyone is cis-gendered. Back when the world simply saw men and women, those two genders were viewed and treated very differently.

Until the revolution of the 60s, women had been openly referred to as ‘the fairer sex’ – and by saying this, people weren’t complimenting women’s level-headedness or ability to stay calm, rational and balanced. Fairer meant prettier, certainly – which on the surface is a compliment – but when you look at the common context it’s quite clear the implications of ‘the fairer sex’ are of women being weaker, more sensitive, vulnerable, less able… inferior to men. This also highlights the culturally embedded notion that being emotionally sensitive = weakness, which is a separate issue for another day.

Men, on the other hand, were seen as strong and confident, leaders in whichever industry they were found. Paid employment was seen as the sole domain of men, with women’s options limited to marrying well, creating then caring for offspring, and managing the home. Although ‘lower class’/’working class’ women worked out of sheer need during Victorian times, for the general populace it took a war to force the hand of society to ‘allow’ women to take up paid employment, with many women relieved to be able to turn their hand to useful duties outside of the home environment and for which they earned their own wage. The beginnings of independence.

In the home, the ‘head of the household’ was the man, they were the breadwinner. A mother’s ultimate threat was to tell her children that their father would hear about whatever misdemeanour. “Wait til your father gets home” became a prime-time television show after becoming established as an everyday phrase.

The male grip on power was made certain by the fact that they were the only ones legally entitled to vote. Women weren’t allowed to make their voice heard about who was in political power until 100 years ago this year, in 1918. Rather than being granted the vote because those in power and with influence (all men at that time, of course) saw that it was the right thing to do, the change occurred only because of the tireless campaigning -for more than 50 years- of the women’s rights movement, the suffragists.

These are only a few historic examples of the differences between how men and women have been viewed and treated in society. I believe that some of the underlying attitudes are still prevalent today, despite the ongoing work of both feminist groups and feminist women living their own free and independent lives.

FemDom The BDSM Scene Outsider? Why The Fear of Female DominanceThere are clues that reveal that, as a society, we’re much more comfortable seeing a woman in a submissive role or position, and deliberately not in a position of control, than a man. For many people, thoughts and images of a woman being controlled, being submissive, perhaps even being physically restrained, is (or can easily become) sexually arousing. I think this is both because it’s an expression of liberation, of choice on behalf of that woman, who chooses to surrender her usual power and control to someone else temporarily and for mutual psychological and or sexual pleasure, as well as because it’s quite a subconsciously familiar image to many in society.

Thanks to centuries of distinct gender roles and gender division, many people are -perhaps without being aware of it- quite comfortable seeing a woman in a submissive role. Likewise, it can feel familiar, comfortable, even right, to see a man in a dominant position or role, the one with the power and control.

Not convinced? Well, let’s think about it in modern-day terms. Would 50 Shades of Grey have been as popular if it had been about a submissive man? How many blockbuster Hollywood movies can you recall which stars –or even includes– a character who is a submissive man? How many erotic books or films featuring male submission –with or without female domination- have made it to the mainstream big-time? Conversely, why have 50 Shades of Grey and other maledom stories such as the Secretary film been so easily accepted by the masses?

These attitudes carry over into the merchandise people buy to sate inner desires and fulfil their fantasies. Bondage toys and fetish gear sold through online sex shops and BDSM equipment stores generally show a woman modelling the collars, restraints, or having the punishment items used on them. Women are used to sell items to both men and women in all industries, it’s true; but I believe that in BDSM there’s more at play psychologically than simply selecting a pretty face and stereotypically feminine, lingerie-clad figure to sell more products.

Men in our society who identify as submissive often feel the need to hide it, because otherwise they won’t be respected in their social circle, at their employment, in their relationship or generally in life if it’s a known fact. The vast majority of male submissives and slaves I’ve spoken with, been friends with, dominated and owned have kept their submission a strict secret to anyone outside of ‘the scene’, and remained anonymous even within it. Often their submission is even a secret from their life partner, someone they should be able to feel they can tell absolutely anything to, and still retain that person’s love and respect.

“Alpha” and “beta” are terms used to describe men – majorly by other men – to rank them according to how dominant they are. Not dominant in a BDSM sense, but completely in the view of a certain type of man. Many (often misogynistic) men describe themselves as an “alpha male” and will deride other men as being “beta males”, ie. less, submissive, weak, not in control. This is often specifically linked to not being in control of ‘their woman’. The relationship between what they view as their ‘alpha’ strength and their attitude to and treatment of women is a recurring theme amongst that type of loud-mouthed (and evidently rather insecure) man.

FemDom: The BDSM Scene Outsider? Why The Fear of Female Dominance

Taking all these points into account, it’s no surprise that FemDom gets, at best, side-eyed with suspicion, and at worst, openly derided as wrong and unnatural. Yes, I’ve been directly told that FemDom is both wrong and unnatural. It’s ‘not the natural way of things’. Thinking on it further, perhaps this is why a certain type of man feels such a pull towards submission, and in particular, submission to a woman. The pressure on them in society to conform to this ideal of a powerful, forceful, ‘alpha male’, battling with an inner desire to surrender control – to, of all people, a woman. Someone long seen in society as gentle, weaker, incapable almost. The ‘fairer sex’. How utterly perverted.

All of this was reiterated to me lately during an email conversation with a good male friend who identifies as submissive. Speaking about a recent visit to my house, he reflects:

“A submissive needs to be reminded periodically that he is just that and I certainly was [during my visit]. It became very notable as you showed me around your home and continued to grow in intensity throughout my visit. 

I know I was wrong, but a part of me felt dirty and pitiful. If I was a normal man and being in the presence of beautiful young woman like yourself aroused me in a conventional way that would have been quite prosaic and acceptable, but the inner needy cravings induced within a submissive are, to say the least, degrading and demeaning in conventional terms.” 

FemDom The BDSM Scene Outsider? Why The Fear of Female DominanceI found this statement incredibly sad, that he feels this way about his own submissive nature and about identifying as a submissive in general. In addition it felt a little hurtful, although I know he didn’t mean it in that way. If male submission is so dirty, pitiful, degrading, demeaning, un-laudable, unacceptable et al, then what am I meant to feel as a woman who enjoys male submission to its fullest extent? What am I, to be attracted to and enjoy my consensual dominance over men, psychological, sexual or both, and their willing submission and/or slavery?

The feeling that FemDom is the ‘eccentric acquaintance’ of BDSM has hit me personally in other ways, too.

I have previously been warned by someone in the scene not to ‘go full Domme’ upon meeting someone, because they’re ‘nervous about Dommes’. As if I couldn’t possibly act by the agreed BDSM code of conduct, which has full and active consent squarely at its centre. As if dominant women aren’t in control of their own wild natures, their strange and female dominance mercilessly searing everyone in their line of fire. To believe this is to also believe that every female submissive falls to her knees and begs to suck the cock of every man she meets. (Spoiler: they don’t. #SorryNotSorry)

I’ve been asked if I get strange looks when I do the school run, as Dommes always wear latex or leather and thigh high boots. I don’t know any female submissive who has been asked about the public’s reactions when she wears her rope harness or leather wrist cuffs in public.

When I first started on Twitter, I made the mistake of thinking I could open one Twitter account which would represent all of who I am, every facet of my personality, and would be a true reflection of what I hope is one complete and interesting person. After a while though, it became clear that any FemDom themed and related tweets weren’t getting the same response as others. They were replied to by the same few die-hard FemDom submissive fans, but my usual contacts would remain suspiciously silent. Upon asking around, I was told that those tweets seemed “too scary” and they “don’t like seeing it”.

FemDom The BDSM Scene Outsider? Why The Fear of Female DominanceI therefore opened a separate Twitter purely for my FemDom ‘side’ – which isn’t a ‘side’ of me at all, it’s just a part of my nature. I’d say I’m sorry if you don’t like it, or if you find it scary – but I’m past being sorry for who I am and for what makes my world go round.

However, other sex bloggers seem to be able to effortlessly combine their kink identity and their mainstream sex writing, toy reviews and blogging. As long as their kink identity is a female submissive. It seems more acceptable to the masses – to both those in BDSM and to their vanilla readers too.

Perhaps the world simply isn’t ready to fully accept FemDom yet. Yes, YKINMK should always be in place in BDSM, and everyone’s kink identities, orientations, fetishes etc should be welcomed or at least accepted and not judged (unless it involves a lack of consent, of course). But it still feels to me like FemDom is a separate entity in BDSM, one tolerated by those without a direct interest in it, not understood, feared and generally given a wide berth. Those who do have an interest in FemDom still often feel the need to keep their interest and affiliation a secret, for various reasons – and I think this is a real shame.

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FemDom: The BDSM Scene Outsider? Why The Fear of Female Dominance

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I get it 😉 Even after nearly 30 years in the kink scene I still find myself having the same fucking tedious conversations about ‘You just haven’t met the right dominant man yet’.

  2. I always wonder about how the old days must have sucked so bad knowing that the “way it was” is the “way it’s suppose to be.”

    The mindset of keeping that going and being use to it is unreal. Independence should have been a must, otherwise you could end up being that miserable forever; especially now a days seeing so many others doing it differently and being happy about it.

    Maybe things would have been a lot different today if things would have changed back then to the way it is now.

  3. As a male submissive it is about knowing ones place. Understanding that females are superior in many ways. Having a dominant, you can serve and kneel to. One who understands the male submissive mind and his needs to please his Maitresse. For me it is about the power exchange between a Domme and her sub. Letting go to someone and allowing them to decide, to make you feel humiliated one moment then loved the next.

  4. I have recently discovered that FemDom is my kink, and I enjoyed reading your article, nodding my head vigorously as I did so. All my life I have been made to think that I should let “the men” do the hard work, when truthfully it has always been the women in my life who dealt with the crap. I pushed against that ideology as much as I could, but I discovered that since I don’t have any interest in sport, and I’m not skilled in science or technology, then I can’t forge my way and throw off the shackles of sexual conformity. Well, not publicly anyway… what goes on behind closed doors is often very interesting indeed! 😉

  5. i cant truthfully say that either of us is a sub or dom… over the years we’ve varied our sexual “tone” one time he really takes charge, the next it’s me telling him what he’s going to do, when he’s gonna do it, and how long he’s gonna do it!! for us, it started very early in our relationship, we’d “finished” fucking and sucking, he made me cum several times, we’d switched positions several times, i got off him, and he started to get up, i rolled over onto my back and started fingering my clit, “i’m not fucking done yet!” i thought this might be a blow to his ego, but he sat and watched while i played with myself, i noticed he was getting hard again, as his fingers took over for mine. soon he was inside me again, pounding away… ive “made” him watch many times since then, and told him when it was his “turn”…

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