This is a submission regarding all the posts earlier arguing that men are more oppressed in society than women—and it particularly addresses the assertion that men are oppressed because it is socially taboo for them to submit to a woman. First of all, the mechanism that oppresses men in society in precisely the same mechanism that oppresses women. I think it is too narrow-sighted to argue that sexism is merely the direction of male violence or discrimination towards women. Patriarchy, as an institution, is more complex, subtle, and pervasive than that. It is a structure that has evolved to encompass more than simply one or even all men within the society. Its existence and continuation self-propagates throughout all facets of society, often undetected by those who are not aware it exists. It is in our language, ideals, norms, and ethics. It is in our laws, schools, marriages, prisons, hospitals, and churches. It is in the education and traditions we give and leave to our sons and our daughters. And, thus, both men and women are impacted by misogyny.
Patriarchy, among other things, requires that men be separate and different from women. After all, if you were a society that has partially arranged itself along gender lines, then you would obviously do everything within your power to clearly demarcate which group is superior and which group is inferior. The superior group in a patriarchal society are straight men; and, as the superior group, it is extremely important for this group to associate itself with concepts of dominance, power, violence, aggression, and force. On the other side of the coin, it also became important to associate the inferior group (everyone else, essentially) with weakness, submission, fragility, and docility. Over time these associations become expectations; thus, if an individual is male and identifies as a straight man, then he’s expected to take on emotional, physical, and sexual traits that are associated with male dominance. This is not saying every man wants to take on those traits—but it is saying that, without a society structured with straight men as the superior group that needs to dominate over an inferior group, there would be no reason for men to be expected to take on these attributes. Similarly, there would be no reason for women to be expected to take on the attributes associated with femininity.
Thus, if you want to fight for a man’s freedom to wear lipstick and stay at home while you go work and wear skirts and learn embroidery and be a nurse, then fight misogyny. If you want to fight the stereotype that male ballet dancers are gay and gay men are effeminate, then fight misogyny. If you want to fight the belief that assertiveness and power or submissiveness and docility need to be traits reserved for only a single gender, then fight misogyny. Misogyny undoubtedly benefits men in many ways, but it also hurts them too. If you really want to stand up for a man’s ability to determine whatever he wants to do, and not have those options be limited to him because of his gender, then fight misogyny.
Second of all, I would argue that mainstream society has found a way to appropriate BDSM relationships in which men are submissive and women are dominant and repackage those relationships so that they appear to make sense in a patriarchal framework. I suppose the easiest way to go about illustrating this is comparing mainstream portrayals of hetero BDSM relationships involving male dominants and hetero BDSM relationships involving female dominants. If you read books and watch movies involving male dominant BDSM relationships, you’ll find that such media often features these relationships in a domestic setting—and, if it is not in a domestic setting, then it is almost never the female submissive who purchases the favors of the male dominant. By domestic setting, I mean that male-dominant BDSM tends to be portrayed as something that occurs within the home as a natural extension of both the man and the woman’s sexuality. Often times, the man and woman are happily involved with each other and BDSM is something the couple engages in regularly, just like how sex or foreplay would be something a vanilla couple would engage in regularly. The woman is almost always portrayed as naturally desiring submission and, if she does not desire it at first, she will come to desire it and realize that it’s been part of her sexual identity all along. In instances where there is no pre-existing relationship, the man is still shown to be the one who pursues domination as a personal hobby—and never as a part of sex work.
On the flipside, female dominants are almost exclusively portrayed as sex workers in mainstream television and media—and, if they are not portrayed as sex workers, then they are portrayed as women who are only dominating men to appease the desires of men (Venus in Furs). The dominatrix is a popular figure in the mainstream imagination. Sometimes she’s kinky in her personal life (which is sometimes suggested at but never shown—like Irene Adler in BBC Sherlock) and sometimes she’s just in it for the money (which mainstream media always wants to portray as quite lucrative, despite the reality of sex work). Sometimes, even, the dominatrix just needs a good dominant man to dominate her to remind her what her true nature as a woman is (in Maitresse, the dominatrix was brutally raped by her boyfriend in front of her clients, thereby effectively shutting down her business; and BBC’s Irene Adler is finally bested when she falls in love with Sherlock Holmes). When it comes to what most people see of female dominants, the portrait they’re given is one where the female dominant is just trying to pay the bills or please her man. And, though the dominatrix can be aggressive and powerful, popular culture seems to argue that, underneath it all, the dominatrix is just another vulnerable woman looking for a nice big man to hold her in his dominant arms. Rarely will you see a film or novel featuring a female dominant end like The Story of O (the movie) does, where the two kinksters are locked in a sweet and domestic embrace despite all their violence (piercing, whipping, branding, etc.) in the bedroom—unless, of course, the female dominant has just been dominated by a man.
At the end of the day, mainstream society has appropriated and rationalized female dominants as women who can easily be dominated through money—which, of course, the male submissive supplies. The male submissive might be tied up and flogged and licking boots for a night but, to society and to the man, the pro-domme sex worker is really the one doing the serving. The fact that most people think of female dominants as sex workers, as opposed to male dominants who are usually not portrayed as sex workers, shows a need for society to make male submission acceptable by portraying it as occurring in a commercial context where the man holds the purse strings. We aren’t shown the domme who is in a long-term relationship with her male submissive—and who is enjoying every second of the domination just as much as her submissive is enjoying the submission. We aren’t shown the domme who soothes her submissive’s skin with aloe after a good flogging while they drink tea and talk about the scene they just did in the bedroom. And we aren’t shown that image of a domme breaking up with her submissive because she just can’t stand his parents. Essentially, mainstream media isn’t interested in portraying the possibility of a woman who naturally just wants to dominate and a man who naturally just wants to submit completely to her. They are not interested in making it seem like it could work in a non-commercial setting—and, even when they do, it is always one in which the woman is being bullied into dominating the man.
When it comes down to it, popular media has told men that it’s okay to submit to a woman—as long as you can turn around and call her a whore afterwards. Many, if not all, actual pro-dommes have had experiences where clients have turned to viciously attack them either physically or verbally for being dominatrices. All of this goes back to the fact that society has created the ability for men to submit to a dominant, if they so choose, without undermining the patriarchal structure—and that’s by reframing dominant women as sex workers…or, sadly, as most of society sees them, as whores. Men are taught that they can submit to women without really giving up power, particularly if they go to houses of domination. On the other hand, women are taught that they can’t be dominant women without being reimagined as someone who doesn’t really want to dominate or as someone who is just doing it for the money. And, even if a submissive man finds a nice domme to settle down with, the fact will still remain that the rest of society will tend to treat the man as if he were dominant and powerful because he is a man—and his partner as weak and submissive because she is a woman.
Women face more challenges trying to be sexually dominant than men do while trying to be sexually submissive. Women who are dominant are almost always portrayed as sex workers—and not even sex workers who enjoy dominating that much, but sex workers who have no choice but to dominate or who are really just waiting for the right man to come along to put them in their place. There is no escape hatch for women like there is for men. Men can always come out of submission and say he bullied the domme into it or that he paid her to do it; and, when he does, society will simply interpret that to mean that he still managed to use women for what they were good for at the end of the day: for sexual gratification.
So I don’t feel sorry at all for men who want to submit to women. And, even if I did, I’d just do the same thing that I’ve been doing all along: fight misogyny.
(Source: , via thehungryhungryemo)