If you spend any length of time in the femdom side of the internet, you are going to encounter some version of this idea:
“Femdom is about female power. If you were truly submissive, all those other things you want would be less important than whatever a dominant you submitted to wanted.”(Paraphrased from a squintillion posts, tweets and nudges)
They mean well, unfortunately. Femdom-as-a-culture is currently over-saturated with things that cater to the fantasies of male subs more so than female doms. To be a domme is to be perennially assumed that your primary interest is performing in a way that meets the needs of subs. An additional pressure is applied that not only is your authenticity measured by how well you meet another person’s fantasy, it is idealized that you just happen to do so by being who you are. A push/pull forms around you, where you being powerful is fetishized, but that power is put on very tight rails.
For a dominant, being told you are all powerful while being confined to a rigid script can feel like a cruel joke. As such, the last 10+ years have been one long push back, against the ubiquitous uniform, against the idea you can’t do certain sex acts, against dehumanizing stereotypes that you are (only) a selfish monster or selfless mommy. Likewise, the matter of courtship became a debate on methods – with a fixation on changing (male) sub behaviour. We endlessly hashed over developing magic bullet first messages and dating profiles; on service resumes to trade labour for kink; on the entitlement of all dommes to expect some nominal payment; and how best to broach having a kink with your wife/girlfriend so she would either do it or agree to give you a hall pass. And, every step of the way, matters were made much harder because however you changed stuff around, somebody fetishized it.
Gentlefemdom and the idea of the domme in fuzzy slippers started to fight the idea that there was one rigid, dungeon bound way to kink, and looped back into absolutes and people wanking about how much hotter the domme next door was. The service resume trend led to the people into service being treated as the true femdom, and a bunch of people who thought it was a trade being bewildered now the service focused dominant wasn’t reciprocating. That’s not even opening the can of worms that is gray-area sexwork and findom! Not all changes were bad, of course, for example the discouragement of people randomly subbing at any dominant they met willy-nilly is a huge relief. However, through every new solution, once nuance vanished, so did
So Why Not Encourage Subs To Be Completely Selfless?
The problem, however, is that an effort to make the needs of sub dudes less overwhelming has come with the nuance-free version that deals with it by chucking his needs out the window. At the extreme end, back in the day when a wife said no or he feared her reaction to broaching the subject, we used to tell men in vanilla relationships to embark on “stealth submission”. This pretty quickly got called out for being dubious consent, particularly where the party being submitted to already said femdom made her wildly uncomfortable. However, I will go one step further and say that it’s a dumb idea because it doesn’t even meet the human need of the sub to be wanted for who they are.
The current advice, that as a (male) sub you should just front load all the whims and needs of the dominant, doesn’t solve this problem, either. You end up with one of the following:
- The sub in question didn’t have much more than a service/obedience fetish, to the extent that if their partner decided anything from a vanilla to an M/f dynamic was what they wanted they would be gung ho. Any quick look around at people who identify as subs and dominants would show this population is a tiny minority, and to be honest even they tend to have some pretty significant caveats.
- The dominant just happens to luck into meeting the sub’s other needs because she wants to. But a conversation about *why* they might want to gets ignored, including that some dominants are motivated by understanding the desires of their subs and meeting them while others are not. One cookie-cutter domme template has been imposed over another, but we are still stuck with a very rigid default for everyone.
- The sub creates a one sided dynamic for themselves that is not sustainable. Everything carries on for a while, until the weight of not getting what they want causes things to fall apart anyway. Then nobody is happy, and the dominant can’t trust the sub to know their limits.
Ultimately, the idealization of the “no needs” sub is an effort to side step the inherent equality any kink dynamic should be built on. It’s either still fap (shoving anything an ostensible dominant could do on a pedestal while the sub gets the thrill of self abrogation) or a bargaining tool to avoid rejection. In the very best case it’s a temporary pause to try to undo the damage that being too pushy or to help a person ease into kink when they are uncomfortable with parts of it.
While I am all for not being excessively pushy, and I recognize that your average ostensibly vanilla partner may be alarmed if you front load the more uh… dark and complicated kink activities one might get up to, I suggest that inversely, the thrill of “femdom is whatever she says it is” is overwriting “femdom is whatever we make it to be”.
Who Am I to Tell People They Are Doing It Wrong?
I caveat I am speaking about general approach, not your personal relationship. There is a whole rainbow of ways people might construct a functional dynamic. If a given couple likes to make the needs of the dominant their primary focus, cool. Where it becomes a problem is when that fetish is imposed as a one size fits all solution or held up as a purer/better way to do kink. My criticism is in the assumptions it requires as general advice and the problem is when completely back burner-ing your needs is presented as a universal solution and starting place, not when it is your personal fetish.
When I say power exchange needs to come from a place of equality, I mean that. You cannot exchange power until you both have it. You can pursue your equality in an intersectional fashion, building in a foundation that is as once robust and elastic as it navigates the many aspects of our identities However, if your starting premise is “because I am a sub, all my needs are less important than the whims of the dominant” you need to add another layer before that: “My needs have the same inherent worth as those of a person who happens to be dominant”. This can still flow to “I feel fulfilled when I prioritize the needs of someone I perceive as dominant to me, more so than any other activity.” But if you start from devaluing what you want, you are over valuing the other party before you have agreed to a mutual hiearchy.
Finally, one of the reasons why I find this particular piece of advice needs countering is the fact that it keeps being imposed at dommes without acknowledging that it’s just as fetishistic as the guy with the elaborate fantasy of being transformed into a coat rack, whether I need a coat rack or not. While the intent is trying to come from a good place, the reality is a lot more like announcing you know what we need – a blank canvas, so perfectly smooth and unresistant. And yet… it remains a wild overcorrection, both unsustainable for most people, and just as dehumanizing to dominants as treating us like fetish dispensers.