Tag Archives: gender

On Female Dominance. (by a switch)

This was going to be a comment on Ferns‘ recent post about the barriers young dominant women experience in coming into their sexuality, but it got out of hand and turned into a whole gender thing so it’s here now. All the disclaimers: floating around seemingly at random in terms of sexual identity as I do (switch/poly/queer/oy vey), dominance is a thing that I may experience very differently than most women who identify as dominant. I suspect there’s still enough overlap that I can talk about it, but maybe not. Anyway. Her early experience is undoubtedly a common one:

From my perspective as a young woman out in the world, I was never free to exercise any sexual initiative in the way I wanted. So I stifled it.

What I mean by that is that in NO environment was I safe or encouraged to behave in the way I wanted (predatory, aggressive, running the fuck) with men.

Why?

Because men COULD NOT FOLLOW.

As soon as I showed the slightest interest in any man, I was put on the defensive by THEIR aggressive behaviour and there was no way to manage that except to step back and become the gatekeeper.

I can’t even imagine how frustrating this would be. Obviously it’s happened; I’ve made advances and the response has been off-putting and over the top. It’s like when you go to scratch a dog behind the ears and he just can’t handle the excitement, he’s sure you’re best friends now and he wants to lick your face and knock you down with his crazy whip-tail and really all you can do is try to calm him down before you fall over. It’s not all that surprising. Heterosexual men are under overwhelming social pressure to be the aggressor in relationships, even if that’s not their personal preference. It definitely adds to the difficulty so many women have in being the aggressive/assertive partner. A lot of our perceptions about aggression and assertiveness are tied up in the idea of masculinity, which is going to make the process of forming an F/m relationship subversive to some degree. Some folks like being subversive, some find it frustrating that it has to be, but ultimately, it goes against the grain. It’s just harder.

For the most part, I was lucky. With a very few exceptions, I don’t date traditionally masculine men. Some are genderfluid, Most are queer to some degree, one was completely asexual*, and a couple were deeply, oppressively religious. Most of the rest of my partners have been women.  They’ve generally been perfectly happy to let me be a mean, egotistical maniac outspoken, aggressive, and downright bossy. (Well, minus the bossy part when dating a D-type.) Whatever power dynamic formed in each of those relationships formed independently over time to match what worked for us. I really can’t stress enough that I have been lucky as hell in this regard.

I started dating at fifteen. By eighteen I was consistently the more assertive partner in every relationship and the initiator of every one night stand. I didn’t think of it in D/s terms at the time, not because BDSM was unfamiliar but because the mix-n-match of behaviors I indulged didn’t properly fit D/s roles as I understood them. Hell, I still don’t know how to describe a relationship with a terribly conflicted Catholic man that consisted almost entirely of theological debate and ordering him to hurt me. Dominant masochist and evil temptress? Who knows. The point is, even though I had the freedom to be as aggressive as I liked most of the time within a relationship, doing so openly was still incredibly challenging.

There’s a social perception that comes with assertiveness, and it is decidedly masculine. I’m not remotely butch. I can dress the part, and have on occasion, but my default look is long curls and high heels. One of my many objections to cold weather is that it prevents me wearing skirts. But because I’m aggressive–because I reach for the check first, because I make the first move, because in some subtle way it’s typically assumed that I’m going to at least voice if not make joint decisions in a relationship–I’m called the “guy” or the “man” of the relationship. This started way back in undergrad, when I was dating a very butch but rather meek young woman. Over and over friends would laugh that “Nic is so the boy, it’s so cute!” (which pissed us both the hell off because no, actually, we were both women; there is no “boy” in a lesbian relationship**). It continues today with Spouse: a good chunk of our social group have taken to calling him my wife and I frequently have to correct people who assume ours is an F/m relationship. The former we don’t mind. Spouse is genderqueer and mostly indifferent to which gendered nouns and pronouns people use to refer to him. The latter is more problematic. One domme assumed that Spouse was submissive to me because he came to a party in high heels–that is, clearly I had feminized him, and feminine=submissive. One of the reasons he wears heels is to annoy me: I like being taller than he is. It’s ridiculous, and especially hard to understand given that in 90% of my public scenes, I bottom, and in all but one of his public scenes, he’s topped. But he’s not masculine. Must be submissive, right?

It is problematic that emasculation is synonymous with weakness. It is problematic that empowerment is in conflict with traditional femininity (apparently there’s not an accepted word. I looked.) This discourages women from being assertive, aggressive, or dominant: those of us who embrace female identity are told that we can’t keep it if we want to be dominant. For some, that’s a barrier that can be overcome. I have changed Spouse’s car battery in bright red stilettos while threatening the poor Southern gentleman who said “let me just get that for you, darlin’.” My automatic response to anyone who says “you can’t…” is to immediately and with complete disregard for personal safety or social consequences do exactly the thing I “can’t” do. For others, I imagine it’s just tiring. Simply expressing oneself authentically shouldn’t be a constant struggle, but norms being what they are, it is. For some women, the frustration of expressing dominance may just not be worth it, especially for those women who don’t know that there’s a kink community out there and that many men are dissatisfied with the power dynamics assigned to traditional gender roles.

It’s not just that men are raised and expected to behave this way, it’s that this behavior is synonymous with masculinity. If women are going to be comfortable with dominance, assertiveness, aggression, we need at minimum social acceptance to be these things without being denied femininity.

*Yeah. Ask me how well that worked.

**By which I mean: when referring to a relationship between two female-identifying persons who are not interested in queering their gender, it is inappropriate for an outsider to declare one of them the “boy/man/guy/dude/&c. It’s homophobic to force homosexual relationships to fit a heterosexual paradigm. If someone in a lesbian relationship identifies as a boy (or really anything else. Tiger. Shark. Martian. Level 13 doppelganger rogue) that’s great, no problem. Well, unless you go the doppelganger route: I’m not giving you a pass on the level adjustment, sorry.

Cock Shot

Everybody scorns the cock shot.  There’s no denying that guys who use ill-lit photos of their dicks as profile photos or send them unsolicited to women on the Internet have some issues. Honestly, given the overwhelming negative response to this sort of behavior, I find it a bit baffling that it continues to occur at all.  The complaints I see about the cock shot start reasonable: “I don’t even know this guy, what makes him think I want to see what he keeps in his pants?” Then they take it a step further–“no one wants to see your cock,” or “male genitals just aren’t attractive.”*  And I agree that seeing a strange man’s dick is pretty much never going to hit my to do list. My response to random messages containing them is usually to roll my eyes and block the sender, on the theory that whatever he was thinking when he sent it, it probably wasn’t something I’m interested in.

But.

That doesn’t mean the cock shot is never welcome. The keyword above is “unsolicited.”

The new guy–let’s call him the Techie –and I text a lot. We throw in pictures sometimes. Photos of dinner if that’s what we’re talking about, or his latest “look what I picked up at the hardware store” project, mostly. I’ve tossed in a few self-portaits in fetishwear or nude when we flirt. When I sent him a proud shot of chicken enchiladas, he responded with beer brats. When I send him a racy nude, he sends back his own.

I fucking love it.

You have to understand, I’m a complete reaction junkie. If I send a partner or a friend an erotic picture, I want a response. The polite that’s-nice-but-I-shan’t-comment-lest-you-think-I’m-objectifying-you responses are less than desirable. Frankly, I find them rather ego-deflating. Comments of enthusiastic appreciation–“My mind keeps wandering to you in that corset, it’s making it difficult to focus at work,” “The next time you make that face, I want to be there.”–are better, though I get flustered and shy about them. How am I supposed to respond? “Gee, thanks”? It kind of ends the conversation.  My favorite responses are descriptive. I want specifics, details. What exactly are these fantasies, did I cause blushing or goosebumps or a moment of quickening pulse? A photo does one better. I get to see what reaction I provoke, I get a lovely bit of sexiness of my own to look at, and the whole exchange gets amped up that much more. Responding in kind helps create a lovely feedback loop of desire that can keep me smiling all day. So yeah, sometimes a picture of a cock is exactly what I want to see.

So what makes the naked pictures desirable? Relationship, for one. A sexual partner or sexual interest who expresses desire to see one’s nudity is someone it’s appropriate to send a nude photo to. Without consent, it’s just a bit creepy. Creepy does not make a good first impression.

Second, consider context. Sending a racy picture cold or in the middle of another conversation creates a bit of a WTF? moment. With the first, there’s a higher risk that the image preview will be seen by someone else in inappropriate context. (My phone is ALWAYS either in my hand or in my purse or pocket, but some people will set theirs on a desk or hand it to someone to show them a picture or website.  It’s worth being careful of.) The latter would just be bit jarring. When flirting, though? I’ll always say yes to an added dimension. Words are great. Words with visuals are better.

Third there’s the photography itself. This is true for female nudes as well, by the way: I have just as much disdain for a poor quality photo of a woman’s body or any of its parts as I do for a man’s, and most people’s attempts at erotic photography of themselves are pretty abysmal. There’s this ridiculous idea that men’s bodies are inherently unattractive and lacking in artistry, while women’s bodies are beauty personified, which I think contributes to lazy photography among both.** After all, if men can’t be sexy, why worry about poses, framing, lighting, or anything else? It’d just look farcical, right? And if a woman’s body is conventionally attractive, why bother cleaning the bathroom mirror or keeping rumpled castoff clothes*** out of the shot or anything else? No one will look at the background if there’s a naked chick in the foreground, right? I don’t expect studio quality work, but a bit of care is nice. Mr. DIY is pretty brilliant behind the lens, which makes our current game lots of fun for me.

The point is, naked pictures–even anatomical close ups****–are fantastic when created and used responsibly. They’re worth having fun with.

*That’s just not true. Our species is not in fact divided into “yum” and “dear God keep your pants on” based on SRY activation, okay?

**No, I’m not addressing folks who don’t fit the gender binary. Yes, they’re people too, but someone not part of the traditional gender binary is less likely to indulge in self-referential behaviors determined by social gender expectation.

***Dear every woman who makes K&P and is not being photographed in a studio: do your damn laundry. Make your damn bed. If you can’t, at least don’t include the mess in the shot.

****I have a thing for hands and wrists. Just tossing that out there, in case anyone reading this has a particular desire to show off his/her/insert-preferred-gender-neutral-possessive-pronoun palmaris longus or any of the visible carpal bones. Swoon.