Typing “BDSM and feminism” into Google predominantly yields results about women who enjoy sexual submission alongisde the age-old debate about whether or not getting spanked by your boyfriend makes you a bad feminist (it doesn’t). Many of the articles raise concern that sexually submissive women are reinforcing long-standing patriarchal formulae that posit women as sexually passive and men as active. I’m not here to shit on women whose sexual preferences err on the masochistic side of BDSM, because at the end of the day, sex is about pleasure. While gender, race, and sexuality can have a significant impact on our approach to intimacy, they don’t entirely dictate sexual preferences.
What my Googling did reveal is a scarcity of literature covering women who sexually dominate men. In fact, the headline of one of the few articles on the topic suggests that “men struggle to deal with sexually dominant women”—a prevailing stereotype which I’ve personally found untrue. Other articles argue that, if men are going to be dominated, it should be behind closed doors by professional dominatrixes—not by their wives, girlfriends, or female sexual partners. What I’m trying to say is that being a female dom goes against the heteronormative approach to sex, which is probably why there’s so little coverage of it. With that said, this isn’t a solely political piece; although being a female dom can inform one’s understanding of gender and sexuality, I’m more interested in the joy and liberation to be found in this role reversal.
It wasn’t until the final day of my first year of college that I realized I’m dominant. During my last one-night-stand (because I was determined to see my first year out with a bang), a guy I’d met several hours prior asked me to spit in his mouth. Having dated an aspiring dentist for a few years before this encounter, I was taken aback by this affront on oral hygiene as well as the notion that I, a girl, might be in a position to degrade a guy. Thankfully, there was enough alcohol in my system to shrug off my (many) questions and grant him his wish. So I spat in his mouth.
And the rest is history. From then on, I began asserting myself in the bedroom in ways I’d never imagined (thanks to years of social conditioning via drab displays of missionary sex on TV). In my second year of college, I slept with men who wanted nothing more than to call me “mistress” and get slapped around. I learned a lot about masculine desire from our pre-sex conversations, outlining desires, boundaries, and safe words. Some guys preferred psychological domination (e.g. taking orders, orgasm denial, verbal degradation) and others were after something more physical (within the limits of whatever pain threshold they had). In all of these encounters, I was in charge. I was invited to witness a masculine vulnerability that rarely appears in heterosexual sex. It was especially exciting because many of my partners—especially the straight ones—had limited experience with being sexually submissive, making it feel like a gender experiment for everyone involved. To me, playing the role of a female dom meant liberation through sexual agency; to them, being submissive meant freedom to be passive where they’d conventionally been in charge. Interestingly, each participant is freed from expectation—both can move fluidly along the continuum between active and passive, relinquishing and reclaiming control.
But while I welcome any opportunity to sexually dominate men, the same is not necessarily true regarding my relationships with women. Much of the excitement I get from dominating men comes from the overt subversion of the aforementioned heterosexual paradigm (men active, women passive). It’s thrilling because it’s unexpected. To an extent, the fact that I’m aesthetically very feminine means that I’m expected to be more passive in my queer interactions. From a glance, my frilly combination of blonde hair, pink Docs, and pastel fits would suggest that I’m a pillow princess. Though this isn’t strictly true, I also wouldn’t say that I have a desire to dominate women in the same way I do men. If anything, with women I’m a switch who’s simply there to enjoy whatever. It could be that I’m less inclined to politicize the sex I have with women, knowing that it exists beyond any male gaze or established “norms” (as there is painfully little representation of queer female sex). This means that the sex I have had with female partners—whether it has veered into BDSM or not—has often felt more intuitive and more naturalistic than it has with men.
For me, there is still a question mark over how BDSM intersects with my sexual attraction to women. I mean, I know I want Megan Fox to step on me, but doesn’t everyone? With men, meanwhile, I know that playing with gender is fun—and subverting heteronormative formulae by taking on a sexually dominant role is an obvious way to do so. Beyond the politics of it all, being a female dom has meant seizing sexual agency and asserting my pleasure in a way that’s thrilling for everyone! Not only is playing the dom fun, but it’s taught me a lot about consent and taking responsibility for my partner’s pleasure as well as my own. It’s rare that we see masculine displays of submission—or feminine renditions of dominance—on screen, so it really is a privilege (and a pleasure) to engage with these concepts in real life. So if you’re a woman reading this and you happen to stumble across a submissive man, I implore you: spit in his mouth.
By Alice Garnett
Photo by Miss Meatface