“Well I guess what they say is true, I could never be the right kind of girl for you.
I could never be your woman…”–White Town, “Your Woman”
Hey, my kinky, polyam peeps! While Covid isn’t gone (and I get the feeling we’re still gonna be dealing with it for quite some time), it is nice to be able to start to get back out there and do things. I mentioned in my very first blog post that I got to go to my first play party since pandemic started in October and just this past weekend, Panda, Penguin and I got to attend another pre-Thanksgiving event. As someone who’s love languages are quality time and physical touch, pandemic was particularly difficult. Touch-starvation is a very real thing and don’t let anyone tell you differently.
I was having dinner with Foxy about two weeks ago and I was telling her about my recent piece on Masculinity and Submission and mentioned something I had read in “The Loving Dominant” which is a FANTASTIC book for every Dom in training. I read it very early in my journey and I highly recommend it. One thing author John Warren mentioned, which has been borne out by some research I did for this article (I’ll list all my sources as we touch on them), is that a significant number (if not the majority) of submissive women live high-power, past faced vanilla lives. Either they’re white collar workers in the corporate world, often managers or even officers in their company and are in charge of other employees and/or major business decisions, or they could be housewives who have to run “the company” that is the family, raising kids, addressing family finances, making sure that things are running smoothly and on time for “their employees”, their partner and children. My point is, these women put a lot of time and energy into their day, so when they retreat to the bedroom, they’re physically and/or mentally exhausted, so the idea of giving up control is incredibly attractive.
This dichotomy of an “in-control” vanilla life and a “lack-of-control” BDSM life made a lot of sense, and one I understood personally, which led me to the next logical question: “Why aren’t more men submissives?” The logic seems to track. Simple demographics show that men occupy higher and more stressful places on the corporate ladder. While I can’t make a statement over who has more overall stress since so much emotional labor that women do is unaccounted for, but given from what we see with our naked eye, an assumption of one man sub for every woman sub would not be out of the question. However, the data shows that this is the best case scenario, and in fact, the ratio is more likely two to one women to men.
So, rather than this being a straight-up opinion piece like all my other blog entries, I actually had to get off my butt and and dig for some answers. I had an original theory for the “dominance” (pun intended) of women submissives in the BDSM community, and after a heart-to-heart with Penguin, I did some additional digging and actually have a pair of theories which I’ll lay out shortly.
First, rather than asking “why aren’t more men submissive?”, I decided to turn the problem around and ask “Why are there more dominant men than women?” At this point I want to mention that this article is going to take a very heteronormative tone. While the BDSM community is very inclusive, it is still predominantly (and by that, I mean “more than 50%”) heterosexual. Please don’t take these comments as way to erase the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community, but rather, as I have to make generalizations, I will generalize to the most common case scenario.
As evidenced by demographics, submissive women are not abnormal. If you include everything that falls under the right side of the slash (sub, bottom, slave, brat) as well as 50% of the switch population, behind dominant men, submissive women are the second largest cohort of the BDSM community. As nature abhors a vacuum, the needs of that group will be filled by what creates the greatest demand. The question then arises “Are dominant men prevalent because they are a more valued commodity?”
This 2016 article from “The Next Big Idea Club” delves into the science of attraction and how it relates to dominance. There is evidence to show that humans tend to feel a greater sense of attraction towards those that exert not just physical, but social dominance. However, as the study did not specify gender, we can only assume this works both ways: Women are attracted to dominant men and men are attracted to dominant women. If that’s the case, we would expect to see a greater balance between the genders in a D/s dynamic, however, that’s not what the data bears out, so something else must be going on here.
As I alluded to earlier, I had a conversation with Penguin about this piece earlier this week and somehow the conversation turned from the D/s dynamic to sex, specifically why (at least as it appears), the demand for sex from women by men seems to outstrip the supply of sex provided by women to men. Looking at the situation on the surface, it makes sense. There’s far more women sex workers than men, so the uneducated would simply conclude that men want sex more than women.
The truth is, as Penguin explained to me, far more complicated than that. For women, as she told me, sex is more of a commitment than an act. She showed me her Hitachi and said “There’s a difference between sex and release. This gives me release, it doesn’t give me sex.” This analogy immediately struck a cord in me because, as a man, I never considered the two to be different. Yes, I masturbate, like most men, however, I never considered that sex or release. Masturbation never quieted my desire for sex, and the way Penguin described it, the act of sex for a woman doesn’t provide the release it does for a man. I like the say that, for men, sex is like pizza. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. The way Penguin answered me, it was like abstinence was better than bad sex. Women actually want sex as much as men, and they actively choose not to have it and walk around sexually frustrated as a result because their standards are not being met.
After our conversation, I got back on the web and looked for more information, because Penguin had made the comment that men view sex as transactional while women see it as a, for lack of a better term, a commitment, or perhaps a bonding experience. I wanted to know whey men pay for sex. Was it really the supply and demand issue I originally thought, or was there more to it?
As someone who has paid for sex, I can say that there are many reasons why a man would do so. For me, it’s the experience. The act of sex is one thing, however, there’s a novelty to paying for sex, particularly with someone new. It’s almost akin to going out on a first date: You get dressed up, you have a nice conversation, and the sex is really just the big meal at the end of the buffet. This 2020 article from Psychology Today really reinforced both my own suspicions as well as my own experiences.
For whatever reason (or myriad of reasons), men are expected to be in control in the bedroom. They are expected to be more sexually experienced, they’re expected to be more sexually skillful, and they’re expected to be more sexually confident. According to the study, the majority of men who patronize sex workers do not fit that mold. Rather, they feel uncomfortable in their sexual prowess, perhaps embarrassed by their lack of knowledge in sex, and see as paying for sex as a way to overcome these perceived shortcomings. In addition to this, they appear to be looking for just as much emotional support as women, but may be afraid to admit it. I will say that the best sex workers I’ve come across are just as much therapists as they are anything else, and a big part of their talent is making the client feel like they are in a judgement-free zone.
So what does all this have to do with dominance and submission? Well, I mentioned earlier in this entry that I think the predominance of male dominants arises from two causes. The first would be what we in the statistics world refer to as “self-selection bias” While there are plenty of men who want to be submissive, entrance into the BDSM community requires making those desires public to a certain extent, and by that I mean it’s something that has to be shared with other people. For the dominant man, this isn’t an issue as part of dominance is confidence. Of all the dominant men I’ve met in the community, confidence was a concern for very few of them.
On the other hand, let’s look at the submissive man. While I won’t make a blanket statement that all submissive men lack confidence (I’m a perfect example of this, which is why I choose to identify as a brat), I do believe men who lack confidence are more attracted to the submissive side of the D/s slash. If a certain level of confidence is required to vocalize one’s desires and enter the community, then it should come as no surprise that men inside the community appear more dominant as those men who desire submission choose to simply “stay at home”.
The other cause for the shortfall in submissive men I believe arises in something else that Penguin mentioned to me. Coming back to sex, she stated the reason that women are more selective in their sexual partners has a lot to do with sexual health and pregnancy. In her words “A man can have sex and walk away. If a woman has sex, she may be dealing with the consequences for the next eighteen years.” Also, while I’m not a doctor, I do know that the female reproductive system is far more complicated than the male, making STIs and sexual health issues a bigger concern for those who are AFAB as opposed to AMAB. To reiterate what Penguin told me, women actually do want sex as much as men, it’s just a much bigger cost/benefit analysis for them, so they are more willing to go without than run the risk of negative consequences.
Because sex has become so “dangerous”, for lack of a better word, for women, when they choose a sexual partner, they look for a longer term commitment. Again, this is not to say that women can’t enjoy sex without the strings attached, I’m simply speaking to the 50% + one out there. There will always be exceptions to every rule. Penguin told me that if a woman is going to engage in a D/s dynamic, they are far more inclined to make it long-term. In her words, “Men view sex as transactional, while women view it as a commitment”. If submissive women view their submission as a way to escape the responsibilities of every day life, is it any reason they would shy away from a long-term commitment in which they have to be dominant? It’s the equivalent of saying “Sounds like you had a rough time at your day job, better go get ready for your night job”. I wouldn’t blame them either if they simply said “I can’t be in charge right now, someone else has to do it.”
So what’s the takeaway from all of this? Well I believe there’s a couple important lessons that can be learned. First, as I mentioned in my piece on Masculinity and Submission, men shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed about their desire to submit or about their perceived lack of sexual prowess. I know this goes without saying, nonetheless, it bears repeating. Second, speaking to Penguin gave me a lot of insight into the female mind that I apparently thought I had, but didn’t. To men, it’s just sex, to women, it’s a lot more, so maybe think twice before you call that woman “a bitch” when she rejects you. Just saying.
As always, until next time, stay kinky, my friends…
–The Bratty Cat