“I don’t know where the sunbeams end and the starlight begins, it’s all a mystery.
And I don’t know how a man decides what’s right for his own life, it’s all a mystery.–The Flaming Lips, “Fight Test”
When I look back at how my life has played out so far, I will tell you that it was anything but how I expected. I like to say “How boring my life would be had it turned out exactly as I had planned”. Well, let me say that this project has certainly not turned out as I had planned. While I was looking over the stats for The Bratty Cat’s Facebook page, we now have over 1,000 followers, and roughly 80% of them are women. I find this very confusing since this report from the National Institute of Health states that men are 70% more likely to be interested in BDSM and this study from The Independent and a very crude and cursory statistical analysis of FetLife users states that anywhere from 30%-50% of men have shown interest in submission. Still, education is education, and while I haven’t yet reached my intended audience, I’ll take what I can get.
Today, we have a real treat for you readers. Instead of me just rambling on about my own personal experiences, we’re gonna bring in an expert. YouTuber Evie Lupine is a fantastic resource for the BDSM community that I often tapped while I was writing for the podcast. Today we’re reviewing a video she posted on male submissives, more specifically, how one can exhibit masculinity through submission. You can view the video here. Take some time to watch it before we move on.
So, as the “Token Cishetero White Guy” among my circle of friends, I don’t have access to queer spaces in the same way most of my friends do. There’s a lot about being queer that I don’t understand, simply because… I’m not queer. I was asking a non-binary friend of mine what it means to them to be non-binary, as I’ve been told it’s a definition that can vary from person to person. The way they phrased it was akin to “Society has a set of expectations of what it means to be a man or a woman, and honestly, I don’t feel like I fit either of those definitions”
This got me thinking. I’ve never been what’s considered a “man’s man”. I was labeled “sensitive” growing up, I don’t like guns, or cars, or working out. The closest thing I do to a “manly activity” is feverishly follow sports, particularly football. This, in turn, got me thinking. “Could I perhaps be considered non-binary?” I don’t really think that I fit society’s expectations of what it means to be “a man”. I quickly dismissed this thought because I realized, in true autistic fashion, maybe it wasn’t me who wasn’t “a man”, but rather, maybe it was the rest of the world that had it wrong. Maybe rather than me redefining my gender, the world needed to redefine masculinity. To quote Randall Graves, “I was taking it back.”
To understand what it means to be a male submissive, we first need to understand what it means to be submissive in general. Webster’s defines submission as “the act of submitting to the authority or control of another”. While technically correct, Lupine argues there is a societal definition to the term that is very gender-focused.
Let’s look at common acts of submission that a sub may perform for their Dom/me: kneeling, serving food or drink, wearing a collar. Each one of these seem very innocent, but if we dissect what they mean in a vanilla society, they all show aspects of femininity. While there are certainly both men and women food service workers, approximately 75% of wait staff in America are women. When men and women both can wear necklaces, chokers are almost exclusively worn by women. In addition to this, when a man proposes to a woman, do they exchange rings? Only on their wedding day. Before then, the woman wears an engagement ring to symbolize ownership. Finally, do men kneel before women while performing oral sex, or do women kneel before men?
It should now become apparent that the entire concept of submission as it is viewed in the vanilla world is inherently tied to femininity, while dominance is associated with masculinity. There’s a whole sub-genre of male submission called “sissyfication” that strives to intentionally use femininity as a form of humiliation. It really couldn’t be more obvious than that now, can it?
So how do we then reconcile the joy of submission with the stereotype that it coincides with femininity. Well, there’s the obvious, yet difficult approach of “redefining masculinity”. As a male submissive, I just say to myself, “I am confident in who I am as a man and nothing society says is going to change that”. Now granted, not everyone wants to take on societal norms and I don’t blame them for that. It’s a choice that I’ve made. What, then, are our other options?
Ms. Lupine offers one perspective which, as a male submissive, I have only realized I probably have been practicing most of my adult life. If we look at, as Ms. Lupine suggests, Don Draper as the definition of masculinity (which is incredibly ironic because, SPOILER ALERT! The character is actually a façade for what 1950’s society thinks masculinity should be) the idea of the “Mad Men” era gentleman can actually be viewed through the lens of a masculine submissive.
When we think of the 1950’s husband, what images come to mind? Provider, care giver (if only materially, if not emotionally), defender (in both the physical and honor-bound sense). In short, a servant. The Ward Clever of his day earns the money, but gives it to his wife to spend. He “provides” her with children, and entrusts them to her care. While he is the face of the household, he doesn’t really “run” the household. Everything the man does, he does it for his wife. I ask you then, who really is the Dominant in that relationship.
While I’ve been on the BDSM scene for the last eight years, it was really only the last six or seven (when I met Penguin) that I’ve embraced my submissiveness. Still, I look at my relationships with women since I was a teenager, and these were always the themes I kept coming back to. Even when I met Panda, I knew I wanted nothing more than to put her happiness above everything else. How surprised she would be, my mousey submissive, to discover that she was my first Domme.
On a personal note, one thing that Ms. Lupine does not touch on that I think bears mentioning is how bratting can be a great way to express that masculinity through submission. We forget that brats are subs too and bratting provides an excellent opportunity to submit to the will of your Dominant, but not without giving them a bit of a fight to remind them who’s REALLY the boss.
One thing I love about the BDSM community is its openness. Its probably THE most accepting community I’ve ever been a part of. Where else can you show up to a party in a cat onesie with Golden Girls underwear and get plenty of compliments on your choice of attire. There’s no shame in whatever it is that floats your boat (as long as consent is involved) and “normal” is a setting on a washing machine. If you still have your doubts, think of it this way: Your ancestors didn’t risk their lives fighting sabretooth tigers for you NOT to follow your passion. The manliest thing you can do is to make them proud!