Femdom Nouvelle and Beyond BDSM

Louis-Malteste-Miss

There are moments where kink gets frustrating because no label is ever a good enough fit to eliminate the “yes, but…” factor. I’m a femdom, but… I don’t dress or act like a porn cliché. Is that a “Real Femdom“? Well, making that claim is as bad as calling yourself a Real Woman, since you can hardly argue your version is the definitive one. I’m a femdom, but I don’t act like I hold my male partners in contempt, so Sensual Femdom often gets used here, but… I also don’t play soft. And so it goes.

So I could just call myself a “femdom” and let other people figure it out, but I feel like 99% of the aesthetic of my sexual fetishes remains the property of a mostly male audience. I might volunteer moderate /r/femdom, but I don’t masturbate to images of these women. As they are depicted I don’t even want to be these women, as much as I respect their right to exist, and yet they are treated as representative of me. So, Non-Professional Femdom? Nope, that axis has some data points I already covered, but other than talking about the expectations of objectification  it is likely to slide into good old sex worker shaming. Lifestyle Femdom? Lifestyle implies I live in a removed culture apart from all things vanilla, like some sort of separatist commune and I don’t have a 24/7 dynamic.

All kinky people deal with trope and stereotype expectations- plenty of male noobs ask if they can love their subs or worry about being psychopaths in their own eyes or the perception of others. On the other hand, the imagery of kink is more concerned with servicing their needs than defining their image- there are the Christian Greys of fictions improbable standards and masculinity’s own traps and snares but there just isn’t the same instant pull “yes, that’s what a mandom is!” the way that Princess Donna and Mistress Madeline and their fictional sisters completely abrogate my existence.

Long term readers know my clinging to “Dom” as a self description without the gender modifier and might have picked up on my persistence in talking about male dom with the same gender-ed bracketing, because of that feminism thing where I try to shove a snowball into a mitten before popping it into a fire in the hope that using “Domme” only on those personally identified as such will stop it being the default people use on me. Because apparently I’m the sort of person who engages in Amazon Linguistics.

Thing is, the reason why femdoms seem to be really scarce is because it doesn’t really include much room for female desire and this has been a persistent problem, not because women aren’t kinky but because how we construct out labels is entirely an effort to coral messy, often fluid sexuality into neat niches and these niches *suck*.

So Lets Talk About You, The Reader And How You Experience Kink & BDSM

If you’re going to talk about a Contemporary History of BDSM or even some sort of cultural guide or explanation of what the expectations of kink are, you inevitably get a very biased account because of regional variations, misunderstanding, personal opinions and a fair amount of wishful thinking. We do know that kinky things are themselves a part of human sexuality but from there, the lineage shaping our ideas of how to do it properly gets a bit confusing. Even vanilla has this challenge- people generally talk about the sexual revolution of the sixties, but the path to what we enjoy today was a multi-step process and even that has a legacy in tropes developed in centuries past.

But to grossly simplify: Once upon a time, people were a lot more ignorant about this sort of thing, so everyone had a harder time identifying as kinky. The distinction between this being an imposed thing VS limits and consent wasn’t really on anyone’s radar to the degree it is today. We have porn and occasional glimpses from private letters and personal accounts, but getting a discussion on people’s personal lives gets a lot more complicated- did, for example, James Joyce’s wife think his fixation on stained knickers was odd?

One thing we enjoy is a broader focus on categorization of sexuality caused by the sheer volume of sexual media- much less a matter of what you get being what you get. When it comes to porn, the limits of censorship, buying power, literacy and so on mean that finding what you liked, or in the case of many of us, stumbling on our thing so we learn what to ask for has, historically been a challenge.

The tendency to treat everything like filth certainly is belayed by erotica shaped by completely different standards of what was acceptable- for example there is a lot of extremely underage sex in many of the surviving works- horny pubescent (or even younger!) characters or what would be considered rapes described as normal sex are mixed in with quaint vocabulary for things quite recognizable- having someone arsewise for anal, female orgasms with their spasms and so on.  The sort of not okay by our standards stuff exists today, but there certainly doesn’t see to be the same distinction between, “consensual spanking porn = ok” and “wtf, you can’t have anal with an eleven year old! ew!” in the past. I can see how this may have re-enforced the idea that the whole thing was unconscionable filth and discouraged seeking it out.

Now about us: Old folks talk about the bad old days, when often your only exposure was coded personal messages and ads in the back of alternative weeklies. There were certainly BDSM clubs running around, but good luck finding out about them, particularly if you didn’t know what to look for. The femdom has herself a long history- the earliest I know of being 18th century sex workers. The problem of course is that this takes us back to the female-as-dominatrix, male-as-client problem. Its all very well to know that there was a lively trade in Victorian “Governesses” who offered their correctional services to adult boys, but literature is frustratingly mum on the subject of what was actually getting women off in the same period when women’s perspectives are consitantly woefully under represented.

We do know that couples were doing kinky shit- accounts burble up of this man whose wife lived as his servant, or that woman whose dress orders include thigh high boots at a time when these were *not* the fashion. The novel lets us get peeks- for example the Brontes having little glimmers of it, particularly in their own private family writing or in the flirtations of Jane Eyre with her employer threatening to bind him. It’s possibly not surprising that novels have long been an outlet for female passions of all kinds, but also as is pretty bog standard, the medium is the message- how you convey the idea is going to shape the idea and its expectations.

BDSM is not real. By this I mean that the whole complicated subculture and fetish sorting we created is one part arbitrary and one part a compromise to let us do our kinks is not something we come out of the womb knowing the way that a proclivity to get sexually bent appears to be inborn. Just like homosexuality or gender has never actually existed on a binary, BDSM is not the only way to express kinks- it’s just the best solution we have for doing this and trying to fit into (in my opinion) sensible moral guidelines on messy shit like non-con fantasies. I guess I’d explain it further in the sense that some humans have always liked their own gender sexually to one degree or another, but gay pride parades do not need to exist in nature. Gay Pride is a Good Thing. Get off my blog if you have a problem with homosexuality; this is not the place for you. But…

A survey of human sexuality shows that a huge number of us are kinky even outside of a “scene”- I think I’ve beaten the horse to death talking about that BDSM scene members should never, never assume they own perversion. However the language which we and they talk about sexuality is being shaped by these shared cultural expectations and you know what?

Our shared cultural expectations for kink have completely managed to fail to address the needs of dominant women as a group that might be different from dominant men, by first of all shoving us into a seperate category based on gender, and then stuffing that category with wanking men such that anything the women do or say can’t be heard over the sound of a million metaphorical penises being stroked into climax. This is not men oppressing women, this is culture getting in the damn way. Male sexuality is not bad, its just loud right now, like the screamer at an orgy.

I talk a lot about how dominant women are like dominant men (often wanting fucking, etc…), but I want to say that it is my opinion that the ways dominant women are not like their male counterparts. It’s a problem in the subject of sexism to try to simply ignore femaleness like a handicap polite people don’t mention, rather than, you know, a valid part of identity to be happy about. How much of me cringing at people talking about “doms and femdoms” as if the former was not synonymous for the latter is pernicious internalized self hate that hears “fem” not to mean good, but ineffectual and other? Okay, back to the point about trying to hack out a femdom identity that feels like it fits.

As people hit the internet in droves, the comparative anonymity let us start talking about how kinky we were. Regardless of the whole business of being molded by porn with a post war digression into gay bikers, a lot of this got blasted through the internet, and the scene that exploded on the other side, with its slashy speak and munches, has a direct legacy to the newgroups and so on. Hell, 50shades itself is a jumped up work of internet porn. Love it, hate it, or like most people, be vaguely indifferent to an increasingly dated phenomena, thus was birthed ever increasing acceptance of BDSM as generated by online stuff. This is particularly strongly represented in the new generation of kinky people hitting TNG groups, who grew up on a diet of internet porn and media that needs internet to sustain it. While Grandpa and Grandma Kinky had glimmers from other media or furtive tastes of printed porn, the ability to sample all means I’m less worried about an 18 year old noob than a sixty-something noob figuring out doing things sanely and safely.

Looking at femdom as a thing that belongs to women as a self generated phenomena from women, without male buyers, if you want to include more women in the label (not turn them femdom, include them) you’re going to need to make femdom more accessible to women. There’s going to be certain concessions you have to make:

First of all it may not look like what men desire. Secondly, it has to be about the actual women, not desire for the women. Beyond that, it is more likely to involve things women generally like that pander to them. Ever looked and male-male slash fiction and how often women write in power imbalances? In a world where women are, for safety reasons, notoriously coy, the female dominated realm of slash, which bears about as much resemblance to actual gay men as inch long fake nails do to real lesbian fingering action, is a perfect example of how readily that female sexual output gets filthy (and that the women who read and write it identify with their “male” dominants as much as their subs).

Looking at various efforts at trying to get women to be female doms in their relationships with male subs- I’m thinking of two radically different philosophies that managed to touch on similar methodology. Giles of Becoming Her Slave and the highly sexist Good Looking Loser pickup and men’s sexual advice blog both had the same problem and discovered when they talked about things as opposed to roles things just went a lot better. In Giles’s case he took the approach that on the one hand his needs to be spanked and chastised were a valid part of his sexuality, but if he wanted her to have power over him he had to affirm that power. GLL, of course, shat all over the bed by declaring that women are never Real Dominants, but were  very on board with BSDM staples when you sold them as sexy fun stuff not the things that made him feel submissive.

What Giles touched on and GLL missed is that in both cases is that femdom, from the dom’s perspective is about making her feel like she’s getting what she wants. The average person, regardless of sexual kinks, wants to feel desired and like they belong to and with other humans. Now GLL comes from a school of dating advice that favours the idea that women require elaborate manipulation at all times in order to have a stable relationship, I can only assume because he’s a misogynistic asshole who doesn’t like himself very much. But not touching on that subject further and just on the subject of women doing kinky things, this is quite in line with what a huge number of female dominant bloggers are writing about themselves.

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that there’s a lot of tension over the whole idea of “do me” subs, usually guys who go looking for femdoms with a very particular idea of what they want her to do, say, look like and feel. This, understandably, goes extremely poorly, although thus far discourse tends to get hung up on whether these are True Submissives. The counter balance is all about messaging women with pledges of house chores and scowling at men who dare express F/m as anything other than a guy only incidentally getting his needs met, which isn’t helping either. The reality, speaking in gross generalities, is that few doms of any gender mind indulging fetishes.

You can’t do anything about the irrational “I’m a dom now do everything I say” women or the “mistress plz slav” weirdoes short of flinging a copy of Inter-Human Relations 101 at them and hoping it sticks. But we’d all be a lot happier if we didn’t approach this like you were born into your BDSM role and just needed to find the other half of your set, but rather that the tools by which you communicate your sexual needs are filtered through an imperfect system that accidentally excludes a lot of women who would get turned on or emotionally fulfilled by this.

Call it a “Femdom Nouvelle” approach if you must give it a label. Make it about her not because she’s a superior being or to make men feel more submissive, but, whatever your kinks, its not about the boxes she fits into, its about her needs and desires, whether it would make a good porno or not.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Ms. Pearl:

    I really enjoyed reading this. I think you are right on target. I have often thought about writing a post about subs and the sex industry. I think a lot of men come at this through porn and filter everything through that prism. That approach often falls with a real partner because femdom porn is calibrated to the male libido. The first step should always be to make your lady feel like a queen not badger her about fulfilling your fetishes. On the other hand “stealth submission” doesn’t work either and I have found the “FLR” crowd tends to err on that side of the equation. This is a very complicated subject with no easy answers. It depends a great deal on the preferences of the people involved. But you are 100% correct that if submissive men want to attract more women to female domination they have to find a way to make it more appealing to the women they are trying to attract.

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  2. “but literature is frustratingly mum on the subject of what was actually getting women off”

    Um, no it isn’t. Vibrators! (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201303/hysteria-and-the-strange-history-vibrators)

    Of course, no one was willing to admit that women actually “got off” on them, women didn’t have sexual desires, after all…which kind of brings us right back to the major piont of your post–the need to bring women’s sexual desires back to the center of how we understand female domination. (and I’m totally with you on cringing at “femdom” I’ve learned to use it and deal with it, but if your going to call me a femdom, if it is that important to make it clear what gender we are talking about, then my partner is a maldom.)

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