Relax, this isn’t a hate piece. I’m being sympathetic and trying to solve the problem that a countless horde of submissive men have brought to me to solve. Just get a cup of tea and get comfy while I focus on you and fixing why you are so lonely and unhappy, ok?
First, who am I to speak about the problems of submissive men?
This problem has been made my problem because submissive men keep asking me to solve it. If you are a dominant woman in the internet, you will be a magnet to the lonely “please help me” queries of sub guys.
I still think we are some of the least qualified people to opine on finding a domme precisely because we are the last on the list of people trying to date us. Nonetheless, beyond the usual how to find a domme/how to find a mistress articles, some challenges are a little out of scope of simple check lists or quick tips. Brace yourself, this will be long.
Often a submissive man asking me also has no idea how to find a vanilla partner, or if he can have one, how to talk with her about getting his needs met. With that as a starting place, unpacking how to help him is a big ask indeed.
So why still try? I like men, so I’m interested in them. I don’t just like them as people to fuck, or boss to obey, but as a nerd, I spent a bunch of time in male heavy spaces from my youth. Being part of the minority of women in a stereotypically male hobby came with having a lot of male friends. Then, these guys would repeatedly seek in me a soft safety and social toolkit their male peers didn’t have. So I am not a therapist, but I’ve been drafted into trying to help guys. A lot. And I am (mostly) ok with it and doing it.
Unlike many she-nerds, I escaped the identity of being Not Like Other Girls and am largely comfortable with the fact that I couldn’t escape the pressures on my own perceived gender by opting out of normal. Nonetheless, I was not blind to the fact that the boys were Not Ok. And I was drilled enough both in my right to rule as benevolent princess, and my toolkit of humanism that I almost immediately wanted to know why it seemed to suck so freaking bad for the individuals of the so called ruling gender.
Submissive Men definitely have a problem
You guys get it coming both ways. You’re under immense pressure not to let your kinks show, as your desires transgress masculinity in ways we put a lot of effort to punishing men who do. On the other hand, you are awash in porn that has evolved to cater to your fantasies without much concern for the practical, including a thriving market in lying to you about how things work to indulge wishful thinking.
The net result is an amorphous blob of men who REALLY want a dominant woman, but have no idea how to find her, or relate to her. These guys don’t just fail to get a domme, but can often destroy their participation in groups, making dominant women gun shy about talking to them, and women who might be dommes reject trying it for fear of being eaten alive. I talk a bit more about that problem from my side when refer to my challenges of being the oft chased femdom unicorn. But I am not so unempathetic to fail to notice that while some of the behaviors I receive or witness from men are downright terrifying to me, a lot of sub men are suffering, and they don’t know where to start being ok.
Caveat time: this isn’t going to tell you the secret is to stop being male, or men just suck. My exploration is seriously concerned about your happiness and fulfillment. I am not here to scold you, but there is a problem and it does need fixing.
It starts in boyhood, because the Patriarchy.
Patriarchy is a system (simplifying here) in which a few men have power over everyone and use a system intertwined of familial alliance and influence on gender roles to maintain that power. The extreme is say, the FLDS cults, where polygyny is sustained by booting out enough boys when they come of age that the gender ratios let the rulers broker power by trading around women and girls.
Patriarchy sucks for everyone in that (to quote mangle) it convinces people that it’s not men versus women in so much as men versus men with women as the ball.
More painfully, because even in literal slavery, people don’t stop having thoughts and some capacity to act, the system rewards women who play along. While they usually can’t grasp supreme power, if you are female and buy in, things get significantly less shitty for you than if you opt out. And by being a wife, mother, daughter, etc… who props up the people in power, you can even get power over some men and other women!
In my opinion, this creates a feedback loop where men are incentivized to lash back at women, as safer targets (they have less power to retaliate), but also to associate women in power with an extreme threat to their social position.
A good example is in online gaming harassment. It’s the guys with the shittiest game scores being the nastiest. That nasty is more likely to spill onto female players, minorities and people who otherwise are already marginalized. And holy god is that not a good place to be starting from when your fetish is literally being “beaten by a girl”.
All the broken boys
If you go down the ridiculous MRA rabbit hole you may find yourself nodding along- hey society is weirdly quiet about the piles of dead men. We often hand wave this data as men killing men, as adults and equals, so they it is just the way of the cruel world. There’s some data there to belay this, but there are other pieces, including parts which the bizarre, self harming manosphere don’t bother touching.
You know the standard facts: shorter male lifespans on average. More successful suicides. Higher murder rate. What you may not know is where the count starts.
The first two big male die offs are in the womb, and in the early years of childhood. We cannot blame society for the fact that there are significantly more male to female conceptions, but the miscarriage rate for males is much higher. We think this is a product of the lack of genetic redundancy on the Y chromosome. Perhaps this causes the same effect in the next early childhood phase, but I think we need to consider when a possible baby is sexed is the minute that we apply external gender onto something/someone that doesn’t really have it. As much as you might see a different rate of certain genetic disorders, in so far as we can measure, sex differentiation in infants, in their cognitive and physical capacity, is minimal.
Despite that, whether shown in how you tie a baby’s scant hair, or the elaborately themed layette of princesses versus dinosaurs at a baby shower, gendered parenting is going on long before the kid would remotely demonstrate any differentiation in behaviors. To give you an idea of how blurry physical sex is: some infants are even born with ambiguous genitals that finish growing in one approximate pattern or another months later. Boy brain versus girl brain is completely irrelevant when you have a cute blob that sucks on things and can’t roll itself over yet. But… the external gendering of a baby starts long before the body really changes.
Nature versus Nurture: Tough Boys and Talking to Girls
Outside of modern western pink/blue framing, there are two fundamental differences in how we treat infant boys and girls. Female infants receive more gaze time and social interaction and male infants receive more exposure to risk and physical challenges.
(Summary from parenting article here, dig into scholarly search if you want to know more. If you can’t afford the article, email the writer- they will usually be happy to share it for free. You may also be able to access it at a university library)
And if people don’t know the sex of a baby, they will default to the behaviour they think matches the presumed gender. This is the important bit. Girls are getting more social time and boys more exposure to physical challenges long before we can measurably tell any difference in base capacity. There is also a minor but significant boost in skill acquisition in what you train your kid to do.
Particularly in the culture which, if you are reading this in English, you are at least partially immersed in, we hammer into boys that being feminine, soft and vulnerable is bad. We emotionally and psychologically cripple boys, while building up certain skills in girls. Sure we also try to stop girls from developing certain skills too, but boys are particularly restrained from associating with the feminine. No babydolls, housekeeping toys, dressing up, or associating yourself with female fictional characters. Later, in school, the presumption that you can’t empathize with a female protagonist and even the reading materials you get silo you.
The problem with submissive men is encapsulated in the unsolicited dick pic.
You, the reader, know that women do not like getting nudes from strange men. Unless this somehow goes viral and reaches into the far pockets of places where women seldom go (doubtful), if you are this many paragraphs into a theory essay on gender, you are unlikely to think it’s an effective strategy.
The brain breaking part is that when there was an effort to survey guys who do send unsolicited nudes, the general finding was that the guys assumed that it was wanted behaviour that would be reciprocated.
Yes, I know, that sounds bizarre. But bear with me here… You have an audience that has fundamentally discouraged from developing skills that improve empathy from day 1. Then, you rigorously punished them for even considering to associate with girl things. Are we particularly surprised that they popped out on the other side of that with no knowledge of the inner lives of half the population?
Ok, that’s nice, but now what?
There’s three schools of advice in how to “fix” sub men: mumsy belated parenting, scolding them to suppress their needs, and fap. Fap is the masturbatory passing off of “training” via BDSM play as helpful, and we can discard this as fun but ultimately nonsense. Scolding is born of exasperation, as there’s only a certain amount of sexual harassment and clumsy entitlement you can take before blowing out a cutting screed on why sub men suck. And the maternal effort to get men to learn how to people can be both incredibly patronizing, and as we came in here, not necessarily giving men the toolkit to self teach.
Why not sub training?
I toss out any program of “slave training” or the demands of the small line of sub men asking dommes to use kink to teach them to be a sub, because it isn’t practical. Wrapping lessons in sexy pants tends to favour the norms of people equip to do mass teaching, which creates a few issues. It puts the onus on the domme to figure all this shit out the non-sexy way, first. It overemphasizes sexual openness, not itself bad, but not how most people hook up. You shouldn’t need to also be poly or into teaching sex to figure this out. And, more cynically, it creates a dedicated market for selling the fantasy at the expense of the practical.
The Limits of Scolding
Some men report learning from the angry domme screeds, or the advice to learn to sublimate the self. However, although a safe space to be fucking pissed at how we are treated is a crucial fire that provides the light to attract femdoms to a community, it feeds two problems: self hating subs, and radical over correction. Radical over correction is the more subby than thou guy announcing that he is basically a passive recipient of literally anything a domme might do. It’s not sustainable for most men, so it can be dishonest, and it still puts the onus all on the female half of the couple to make things function. Human interactions are complex, and most dommes want their partner’s needs as part of wanting them. The other problem with the trend of endless sub shaming is that you have a population that is already incredibly insecure, now being reminded they are all bad and nobody will want them.
Getting Beyond Being his Mother
Even me, the author, on the autism spectrum, has a whole toolkit I noticed most of my male peers do not. While maternal flavoured leadership is part of a typical woman’s gender training, unfortunately this is also one of those learn by rote versus teach critical thinking problems.
If you are a sub man you may find the greatest emotional fulfillment from the perception that you pleased your partner, but unfortunately getting there often means developing resilient and effective social tools that can adapt to the inherently ambiguous nature of all human social interactions. It’s not enough to give men a couple of etiquette rules local to your pocket of BDSM (like “always call her Mistress”, “no dick pics” or “tribute first”) and hope for the best.
Broadly the meat of my advice are as follows:
Seek out the (somewhat scant) men’s lib resources.
It sucks that the men’s movement is largely occupied by grifters and misogynistic dingdongs, because men need space to examine the problems that go with living as their gender without having to get just handme down resources. I know you feel like a needy tool hanging out as a feminist trying to unpack your own problems, but spaces like r/menslib are slowly getting you a bit of traction.
Maybe you are cool with gendered shit, but if you are feeling hecking alienated in this guy thing but still aware it’s your gender and you are stuck with its challenges, there are at least other humans being thoughtful about your real problems.
Reach out to other sub men and talk to them.
This one fucking sucks, but it’s been the observation that we dommes have made is that straight sub men don’t really like each other very much. Men have a hard enough time with community building, but the kink scene is particularly a mess. Every category of female + fetish seems to automatically build cliques, work groups and sisterhoods. Male tops tend to gravitate to showing off top skills, which I think is silly, but at least they can trad bro out about their erotic macramé or their awesome flogger swishing, or whatever trendy performance kink grants power and attention.
I can’t tell men how to order their business to have fun. However, if you *must* have a prestige skill anchor like the cis male doms to excuse your clustering, pick a couple of core archetypes you know sell well with women and obsess over that in a social way with other guys. What to pick? I dunno, strength training to give people piggybacks, being “the butler”, chastity marathons, endurance fucking, flogging bottom meditation- pick something, anything to use as a beard to open the conversation if the vulnerability of just directly admitting you need a community is too much.
Or talk about the guy dominated vanilla shit you already do outside of kink with them. If you MUST make this, ultimately, about a finding a partner rather than your own psychological well being, remember women will be lured to existing interesting conversations. There are more women who will feel safe talking about even football than casually sliding themselves into a conversation about how fuckable they are as a category. It works a heck of a lot better than standing in a corner holding a metaphorical rose and making overwhelmed worship noises.
Queer is your neighbour.
I cannot, strictly speaking, call straight sub men “queer”. That label is indelibly attached to homosexuality. However, it’s the closest frame of reference most submissive men will have for what, regardless of their firm attachment to being straight and cis. Queer guys are also heavily policed for displaying “weakness” (like you) and have valuable insights on being the object rather than the subject of gaze (eg how to be hot to get taken and fucked).
This isn’t the end state, as some things don’t directly translate. Your average m4m courtship is way more comfortable with in your face sexuality. For example, femdoms pretty much pan on the grindr special rosebud close up. But, queer is also a back door into understanding how women think, because queer culture has a lot more support for escaping “only for boys” aesthetic and social straight jacketing. It’s also a rare space where you can see other modes of being masculine (eg chubby “bears” being celebrated).
Embrace flirting as ambiguity
All humans are bad at knowing when other humans are flirting with them. We dedicate much of our massive brain power to trying to parse this out, coming up with elaborate schemas that still never successfully model every nuance of how we go from “Hello” to “Fuck”. Sorry, it is what it is.
But what you do have is that if you can’t tell if she is interested, neither can she in you. Until one of you pops, it’s a big playful game of “maybe”. I bring this up because sub guys are often trying to reconcile not trying to terrify the pants off of her, with the belief they have to lead aggressively, in antithesis to what they are trying to select for.
You may (still) need to be the first “hello”. I am super sorry about that. What you also have to wrangle is the grey area of finding and locating eachother’s boundaries. This is a topic that deserves its own essay, but broadly, flirting is an intriguing push-pull that lets you both deescalate in a way that saves face. Scared of being too bold? Socially, be mindful of keeping you both having an avenue of easy escape. (Trust me, once you flirt a lot, you too will appreciate learning to let her down gently).
Consume her world through art
Remedial consumption of media targeted at women can be one of the best ways of learning both what sells to her, and what she is likely to talk about. Even in the kink space, femdoms usually consume different porn than you probably do. Taking the time to know what pervy scenes get repeated a lot in her fanfic, terribad urban fantasy TV, and so on, can be key to getting into the larger conversation that is your mutual sexuality.
There’s a theory that reading fiction significantly improves all human’s “theory of mind”. That’s the ability to imagine the thought processes of others accurately. If you had a typical male childhood, keep in mind that one of the reasons women seem to have more “empathy” (a predictive capacity as well as a sensation of shared feeling) is that they have been encouraged since day 1 to enjoy and identify with male characters. You, on the other hand were robbed of a world of female protagonists. Some nervous pedagogue thought you might check out of learning to read if the story was mostly about a girl.
The damage is not permanent. From fanfic by women who share the same taste in media as you, to picking out shows aimed at women on netflix, you might even find stuff you genuinely like. Also you may end up feeling a lot less broken when you see the number of women who are not bastians of awareness and write men very poorly. But even that lets you know what they think you are like.
It sucks. I’m sorry, I can’t undo a couple of decades of gendered damage towards keeping you lonely in the name of making you more competitive. But I can say that you are not without allies or people who care about you. You can’t necessarily fill the empty place with a singular domme and be whole, but your pain, bewilderment and confusion in the landscape of seeking fulfillment isn’t invalid just because you don’t have problems as bad as some other group.
If you take anything away from this, I hope you understand I am writing with a deep feeling of love for you. You matter and the world is better with you in it. I am sorry you got handed a lot of hard work, but I think that we can build communities where you can feel better.
- “Men” by Natalie Wynne of Contrapoints – Sympathetic gender deconstruction
- “Incels” by Natalie Wynne of Contrapoints – It’s a lot nicer and more patient than you would think
- Captain Awkward – Modern Social skills for modern people
- Dr. Nerdlove – Advice that considers the whole person for romantic relationships
- Dating Kinky – A blog and dating site for people who want a kink focus
10 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With All The Submissive Men?”
One thing I’d add re: media is to look specifically for romance books. Romance books are some of the few media made largely by and for women, and really reflects a lot of women and AFABs socialized ‘what an ideal relationship looks like’. An unfortunately large portion of romance genre is all about the ‘alpha male’, but there’s a fair few other types of masculine presented — boy next door comes to mind — even outside of the rare explicitly femdom romance.
I had the good fortune of being the only boy growing up with 5 sisters and I feel relatively comfortable conversing and relating to women as human beings, and I am still screwed up on this front, if perhaps a tad less so than the average guy. Where I’m really screwed up is having the slightest idea how to maintain any kind of friendship with other guys. I appreciate your attention tp this issue and I think your analysis is spot on.
I have to say that as we all recover from a post COVID hangover, where everyone seems to have lost some grpund regarding empathy and social graces, one thing that has really helped learn to be a decent human again, and in some ways for the 1st time, has been Ted Lasso. Using sports as a platform the identify all the toxic ways men interact with others and modeling the antidote is freaking brilliant. I will add that, while not shown in the bedroom, it is clearly suggested that Ted is a sub, “so eager to please. It was fabulous” says the assertive, confident woman who knocked on his hotel door one night and let herself in.
It would be nice if that applied to men in general, but indulge me a bit here, as I like to imagine Ted Lasso as my model of the ideal male sub. It’s a start. I think we needs more Ted Lassos celebrated in media.
So many snaps! You just get it!!! And if they want more information from some great sources, they can tune into What Women* (*and other wonderful humans) Want to hear from people from throughout the kink community about the way people approach each other. You can find all the ways to listen at linktr.ee/whatwomenwantpodcast .And listen for Miss O Pearl’s 10th Anniversary Celebration on the show this June.
Strong and super helpful essay. Thank you.
I think that all men, including submissive men, need to fix themselves. Women can’t take on that task for them, and even one allows women could, it’s not their responsibility!
[which is one reason why you are very generous in taking out time for this work!]
And I agree that talking to other men is a key part of fixing ourselves. [and super important for fathers of boys].
One hitch – for me – is that I don’t trust men! And I trust dominant men even less. And I think there is plenty of empirical evidence for that view.
Still that’s the road to climb. It’s not easy, but then again if it were, this conversation would be happening. ; )
Thank You for this. I will be uaing some of what you said here to help male subs I know.
When it comes to relationships, the gender roles expectations placed on men, are as strong as ever, even if in comparison to the 60’s, the women’s ones have largely faded.
Talking about “queer”, as a bisexual guy, I’ve heard quite a few times that them ( bi and gay men), would never want to date a woman, even if they were attracted to them, thanks to the number of expectations society/women still place on men.
Even in supposedly “progressive” areas, men are still expected to be assertive and initiate things, expected to protect the woman, and to make more money than her (which btw, is starting to cause a crisis now thanks to women refusing to marry down https://www.nbcnews.com/business/personal-finance/millennial-women-are-worried-ashamed-out-earning-boyfriends-husbands-n748326 )
“…have a prestige skill anchor like the cis male doms to excuse your clustering, pick a couple of core archetypes you know sell well with women”
Easy… Twilight saga, 50 Shades Of Grey, 365 days, the first two sold so well with women, they even became blockbusters.
“…they have been encouraged since day 1 to enjoy and identify with male characters. You, on the other hand were robbed of a world of female protagonists.”
I don’t know what you read/watched as a kid/teenager, but having grown up (5-19 y.o) watching:
Xena The Warrior Princess, Slayers, Totally Spies, Underworld, Nausicaa of the Valley Of the Wind, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bubblegum Crisis, Patlabor, Sailor Moon, A Certain Scientific Railgun, Claymore, Victorious, Lara Croft, Winx, jenny the teenage robot, Nadia the Secret of Blue Water, Birds of Prey, Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi, Dark Angel, MLP friendship is magic, Black Lagoon, Azumanga Daioh, Kim possible, Kill Bill, Precure, Icarly, Resident Evil, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Powerpuff Girls, Haruhi Suzumiya, Fruits Basket, Panty & Stocking, Serial Experiment Lain, Witchblade…
In the list of “things I lacked while growing up” even food would be higher.
(Very little of what is written on here in regards to male personality/behaviour, have any semblance to how I actually act. for one I have very low libido. two, don’t care about being,or being perceived, as masculine, the opposite in fact, strongly disliking this expectation. three, I’m not the kind of person to go around asking others out or bothering them with messages over the internet, much less being pushy at it. so will not comment on that)
“…consumption of media targeted at women can be one of the best ways of learning…”
Always been a fan of yaoi (which is often targeted at women) what I’ve learned ? (even though they’re not totally accurate to mxm relationships) straight men don’t know what they’re missing.
It’s no surprise, that most of the male subs in BDSM spaces, are the “do me subs” ones, with no restraint and interested solely on getting off/sex, the others ones probably end up disgusted by it, and the way we’re seen/treated by society/women and leave.
When not ignoring the problems, most advices amount to little more than “find a way to ,although as a male sub per se, you’re aren’t really worth much, you can still convince, a woman you’re in a relationship with, to play with you by showing status, confidence etc… so she can accept you without feeling too repulsed by it.
In today’s culture, media shows empowered women literally everywhere (and thankfully even LGBT is now having a significant representation) what do submissive men get ? : some creep in some bdsm show here and there.
PS – “One hitch – for me – is that I don’t trust men !”, “I think that all men, including submissive men, need to fix themselves.” is that what your “teachings” eventually do ? is that what you call being a healthy guy ?
Thank you! I may not agree with everything but this is just so much more helpful than advice of the type “how to serve women better” – last time I was trying to figure out what’s “wrong” with me, I have found a book entirely about this from some relationship advisor who focused on teaching men to serve women in FLR, “blaming them” for being a burden. For someone like me, who is trying to live a “normal” independent live and perhaps pursue come caring career, but is having more submissive moods the more he tries to fight against them, reading that feels like getting another nail in your coffin. It makes you feel hurt and guilty, more so that you seek this pain and already have this “there is something wrong with me” feeling in your subconscious. And like you absolutely cannot afford to let your passive and submissive side take over (it doesn’t work).
My impression may be wrong, but it seems to me that femdom kink might often be the place where submissive men who have a build up of self-hatred from trying to conform to the society and reject their needs meet dominant women who are having a no less hard time living in a patriarchal society and are quite understandably pissed with men, and it may not turn out well if it is not recognised and men who feel a great deal of shame seek to be punished by women who feel a great deal of anger.
Sorry if this is not true or sounds offensive, I am just trying to make sense of the world and my situation and I have not had a healthy coping strategy so far which made me biased in this way. Thank you so much for being concerned about men.
I think it goes much further than that! You have a giant missed high five- everyone has a bunch of gender related damage but the dommes aren’t just “angry”, they are often acting out of fear.
A lot of gender training for women is about managing men under the presumption the men have more power. This is built in whether she is vanilla, submissive or dominant. Often it is true is some respect- he probably will have more money and social power on average, and so forth. It’s recent history we had this much financial and reproductive independence. Further, access to certain parts of society like having a family or kids is perceived as being gated behind taking on certain relationships. Thus, you get mutual heterofatalism that you *have* to be paired this way in an unhappy union and you are just making the best of it.
For the sub guys, the dynamic you commonly see him pursuing in femdom isn’t just the hunt for mommies, it can also be an over idealized version of a woman who receives from you. The trap becomes him controlling the giving and having particular expectations about your reactions and needs- you don’t want the vulnerability *to* him, too.
In practice, meanwhile, the power women fetishize who are dommes, and the type of vulnerability of our partners we usually like, both don’t nessarily line up with what the guy is offering. He may not know how, or it isn’t realistic to expect from anyone.
I am sure some dominants mistake kink for gender retribution, but behind the scenes, the anger is either defensive, bristling to protect the self rather than punish, or exasperated- for example feeling a particular person is transgressing a boundary. In the vulnerability part of the sub men who see themselves as “inferior” in their fantasy selves, they aren’t nessarily looking to be cleansed of sins, as much as getting a masochistic high. “Punishment” is, more often than not, an excuse to suffer recreationally.
In my opinion, functional dynamics in femdom, more than going into hetero femsub, have to get past the hurdle of hitting egalitarianism first. I think everyone needs a baseline of mutual respect, but it’s harder in straight femdom if you don’t start there. While M/f can build itself on a caricature of idealized patriarchy, centring the power on the woman has very few positive stereotypes you can raid for inspo.
Can’t find a like button on mobile, not sure if I remember reading this the first time around or not but I’m always pleased to see you break down these issues so neatly.
Thank you for writing this. I’m really struggling, but this helps me feel a little less alone.