Yes, Even Dommes Experience Misogyny

GV SV
Updated March 30, 2016 4:46pm PDT
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The first time I saw myself in media representation as a Domme was in a teen film called Eurotrip. 

I was 14 and I wanted to see teens fuck their way across Europe.

It’s been 12 years since I’ve seen that film;  I honestly can’t remember anything else from that movie other than one scene where the character with the hair gets dominated by Lucy Lawless. The unsuspecting young man named Cooper, played by Jacob Pitts, thinks the women are “traditional” prostitutes rather than dominatrixes, and in true screwball comedy fashion, he is given an incomprehensible safe word so he cannot escape and testicle clamps are applied to him. 

This is played for laughs–I didn’t laugh. 

While Lawless as Madame Vandersexxx was very sexy—Xena is probably my dominant inspiration—I didn’t see myself in her. The scene is akin to “dropping the soap,”, a cliche of equating male rape with hilarity. What I gleaned from this, and pornography, is that femdomming was based on coercion, humiliation, and exploitation.  

Being a FemDom (to distinguish from “femdom” as a genre or preference) in the mainstream makes me a freak. As I saw in Eurotrip, and again in American Wedding, The Pool Boys, and the television show House, my sexual preferences are perceived as downright rapey, at best perverted.

Dommes never get to be a normal or considerate sexual partner. I am told, time and again, that I'm a predator, luring unsuspecting boys away from normal, proper, male-centered sex, and hitting them as hard as I can without negotiating boundaries or preferences.

Femdomming isn't even depicted positively within BDSM literature. In 50 Shades of Grey, 15 year old Christian Grey enters into a dominant/submissive relationship with an older woman who totally abuses him. This makes him into an abuser himself. I’m generously paraphrasing E. L. James’ work. Brought over to the dark side by a perverted woman, a golden ray of virginal light in Ana Steele heals Christian from his abuse, and takes him from the power and influence of his abuser. 

The subtext at play there is that men need to be saved from women like me. 50 Shades blatantly suggests that dominant women create abusive men. I call this the Norman Bates Dilemma, when women are the driving force behind the functionality of men. Men, victims to their desire to please women, are driven to extremes by women withholding sex–this disparity of power destroys men so severely that the abuse of women in their lives becomes necessary for them to function. 

In the episode of House, the male doctor who identifies the dominatrix is quick to clarify that he isn’t into pain. No, no, no, he was seeing a woman who liked it, but he would NEVER be into something as gross as that. We judge a man based on his sexual preference to submit, not because they are worried about his safety, but because any man who would submit to a woman is damaged and perverted.

Deep distrust of female sexuality stems from deep distrust of female power. By actively associating female sexuality with predation, and shaming men who consensually embrace and enjoy female power, we endanger sex workers and male victims–the former by equating their labor and survival in a patriarchal society as inherently malicious, and the latter by equating their trauma with perverse, coerced desires.

I’m an abuse survivor–with the majority of (vaguely affirmative) depictions of BDSM being largely male dominants, there was no way for me to separate my abuse from that scene. I worried I was playing out my own abuse, seeking vengeance through the guise of latex and sex toys. I didn’t even bother to unpack the appeal of corsets and flogging. 

Male dominants gave me the willies; I saw them playing out the ritualistic oppression that I had experienced both as a woman and as an abuse survivor, and yet they were the only “respectable” version of BDSM available. I had no models for how to do something like this safely.

I came late to the kink party, and I didn’t even bring chips.

I have a fetlife account, because I live in the Bay Area and breathe air. I’m a kink cliché, very Venus in Furs, looking for someone to beg to eat my cunt while I slap them. I’m pretty straight forward about that. I have "domme" on my profile because I have no interest in subbing for anyone. That’s why I selected that identifier: it’s not negotiable for me.

I end up having to defend that position a great deal.

Much like geek women, and really any woman who identifies as anything, I’m constantly challenged to prove my domme nature. Men try to talk me out of my kinks, or try to neg my dominance. I like receiving body worship, being adored and admired and touched–I’ve had three male lovers describe that as “very submissive.”

I’m like a dog that can do tricks, rewriting the gender normative sexual hierarchy where women are passive, and that passivity inspires men to have their way with them.

I’m aggressive, and this aggressiveness is interpreted to mean I want someone MORE aggressive to wrangle me when really it’s more that I’d love to see how he looks in a studded collar and leash.

I’m a challenge to be overcome, not a goddess to be sought for counsel, care, or adventure.

Dominant men have suggested to me that my frustrations with the world would be helped by them “ruining” me. Men have written fantasies to me about raping me; the worst part is they don’t even recognize what they are proposing is rape. They think me identifying as domme  belies this need to be knocked down and fucked—I’m a big girl, I could ask for that if I wanted it.

I become a trophy for dominants to try to tame. They perceive me as an unchallenged force looking to be pushed back against instead of someone actively enjoying being sexually, and sadistically, in control. Female dominance as a social ill is referenced countlessly by Men’s Rights Activists, 4chan and Reddit users, and at least three men at every party I attend. Men have inferred that I must “want someone to rape” me because of my temperament.

I’m seen as taking advantage of weaker, even lesser men. That’s about 65% of my correspondence on Tinder (where I don’t even identify as kinky) and fetlife (where what I’m interested in is stated explicitly). The other 30% is male subs and switches mansplaining to me. I don’t respond to many messages on fetlife because I’m not that active; one gentleman got so incensed at this he wrote this rant on his profile about no one being nice to him, changed his profile picture to read “Fuck it, I’m done” and shut down his account. Another felt I needed to prove my dominant nature by antagonizing me, letting me know that my analysis of de Profundis by Oscar Wilde didn’t meet his liking after he asked me about it to “test” my degree.

5% is perfectly lovely discussion.

In real life it’s actually been worse. I’ve had men start licking my boots at play parties, out of the blue, like that’s acceptable. People physically get very close to me in order to smell and rub up against me. 

In our society, "dominant” and “masculine” occupy the same definition; by virtue of existing, I am a political figure. I don’t actually appreciate this very much. I am not my own sexuality, but what society made me. Like most sex positive humans, I am weary of the vilification of sexuality, especially as I bear the brunt of its oppression.

Being a baby domme adrift in the world of complicated sexuality may sound like a niche experience that cannot be catered to, and maybe that’s true. Making movies and television shows for the burgeoning dommes in their early teens might be a bit steep to ask of the mainstream culture–they just got around the idea of cunnilingus as real sex.

Making BDSM inherently about violation of consent continues to create “appropriate” spaces for sexual predators. 

Sexuality should be something we allow people to own and form by giving them narratives that are supportive–or at least legal. I can’t believe that’s the bar I’m setting, that I would plead with mainstream culture to demonstrate sexual relationships not based on coercion, but here I am.

Or maybe begging isn’t the right tone.

How about: sit in that chair and write me a script based on mutual respect and negotiation and don’t get up until I tell you to.

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Lauren Parker is a writer based in Oakland. A harbinger of chaos, she spends most of her time hunched over her computer working on her podcasts, Erotic Friend Fiction: A Bob’s Burgers Podcast, and Listener Beware: A Goosebumps Podcast. She has written for the Toast, the Tusk, Ravishly, Main Street Rag, and plain china.