Submissive men, as a group are not ok

What’s Wrong With All The Submissive Men?

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 a little out of scope of some simple check lists or quick tips.

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 learned to like em as friends. Being part of the minority of women in a stereotypically female hobby came with having a lot of male friends. And guys would repeatedly seek in me a soft safety and toolkit their 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.

Unlike many she-nerds, I escaped the identity of being Not Like Other Girls and was largely comfortable with the fact that I couldn’t escape the pressures on my own perceived gender by opting out of normal. But 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. Notably, 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. 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 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.

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.

What? How???

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, being reminded they are all, by in large 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 football than casually slide into a conversation about how fuckable they are. 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 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.

Now what?

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.

Other sources:

Your Pleasure Doesn’t Matter

your pleasure doesn't matter

It’s a cliché of femdom porn, but many cliches endure because they work. It is also the antithesis of how I (usually) operate and it’s been a trust fall-esque exercise since our first hookup when my train was late so he drove me 3 hours home (and 3 hours back alone). It’s so hard to let myself relax and enjoy someone’s giving.

This one is both a soft limit, and the kink that I am exploring right now: being inconsiderate.

The vulnerability of being dominant is ultimately part of being a half of a whole. In power exchange you get things back, in the meta of D/s, you put a lot of vulnerability in the ability to have expectations for someone else that, more often than not, fetishize the unreasonable.

As such, I recoil at the masochists who do it just to please you, even as my own self thrills to see pain in the face of my lover. I needed Silver to be the slutty little masochist I discovered him to be, because my dominance has always had a generative more so than a consumptive aspect.  

I told him early on his fetishes belonged to me, the control panel of his sexuality. I want to be powerfully and compellingly desired. I glow to command attention, and have to tame very petty jealousy when someone is more important or better at something than me shows up. 

I can see how, of course, the inverse is true. Silver smiles more happily than anything else every time he is reminded I also actually share his fetishes, particularly latex. I think he feels about that the way I feel such delight in his craving to hurt.  

Pretty, perfect, driven, wired boy. It’s funny to use the diminutive on someone both older and having more of his shit together in many respects than me (we are about 8 years apart in age, and I often appreciate feeling it as much as it makes me insecure). But, “boy” comes easy. Maybe it’s the big blue eyes and sandy blond hair? Maybe it’s the painting in his attic, unweathered pale skin. I couldn’t place it.

Telling him his pleasure doesn’t matter did not come easily to me, but I am using it now.

There are a few things that come forth from Silver’s sexuality, fed from his desires and quirks. The masochism. The rubber. The hypnosis. The self initiated urge to please via “surprises”, and the surprisingly hard limits around long term rules via contracts. He has, historically, pleased me by trusting that I will treasure who he is. I prefer it when he is active, not passive, to please me.

And in intimate talk, to each other, those words tripped out of him “my pleasure doesn’t matter”.

At the time I corrected him. His pleasure, like his fetishes, are tools of my control. I was feasting on his enjoyment of this as a significant platform of my sense of power but also, my sense of security. 

In every person there is this being you can dredge up in psychology as an “inner child”. You use it in thought exercises to teach yourself to shed that raiment of self loathing many of us use to gird ourselves against things that are good for us.  

My child-self saw some shit, and often fantasised about folded down into nothingness, not a burden to any adult. I craved to be needless and giving, conceived of myself as selfish. Trauma didn’t make me dominant, but it probably influences my perception of love.  

In the hindsight of adult maturity, I can realise, alongside the pile of  other abuse I experienced, I was a victim of emotional incest. We should not ask children to provide for adults as I was. 

Unfortunately, knowing why I am fucked up doesn’t fix being fucked up.

Silver is perfectly willing to be patient with that warzone aftermath, but ultimately there is a piece of me that stays alert to danger when most would melt into an embrace.  You want to know how meta this is, I am anxious to write this in case he worries he is too much of a nuisance. 

So big breath, relax: Your pleasure doesn’t matter.

When I say it, he reacts with that sort of erotic, wide eyed cringe that makes my heart sing and my core tighten. It’s the same shudder of found out desire he gave when I discovered “whore” or “slut” and even more so “bitch” are sharp yanks on the leash on his soul. The same caught breath and big eyes, but relaxed body, as when I physically pull his cock between his legs in a controlling fashion. 

Trick is, I can’t just say things to indulge him. I have never been the sort of domme who could do things I wasn’t into, just cuz. The latex I wear is my fetish. The pain I give him, my desire first. To work for me (and for him), I had to take that phrase, understand it and use it as it means to me rather than just wave it about ineptly. I have to believe it, not put it on like an ill fitted costume.

In the spirit of the phrase, it’s been a defining thread in our relationship, to trust his giving. The first time I leaned in, it was a dark and rainy night, much like the Pacific North West weather of the last 2 months. He offered a big favour, and I stepped out into uncertain ground and said yes. I knew, over a year ago now, that letting him drive me back to Canada was a huge imposition. But that he offered because he meant it. So big breath, trust, say yes. And it worked. Every extension, every tentative query that my whole self might be wanted, has received an affirmation. Now I try it more consciously, with that phrase.

Let his pleasure not matter. Let myself enjoy. Let me trust to use him and be sure this is as it is supposed to be.