It's been interesting because I'm coming at this pretty cold and relatively late in life. While I have always had a sense of the pop culture view of dominant women (a dim view indeed) and the stereotypical dominatrix, I haven't been involved in the BDSM scene at all. Those views are pretty much what kept me from exploring my dominant side sooner. I remember in my very early twenties I started thinking about maybe sort of looking into being a "Mistress" and developing a dominant style (at least in the bedroom), but was put off by the stereotypical latex-clad, stiletto-sporting wank fodder that didn't represent my sexuality at all. So I just kind of dropped it - leading to some very unfulfilling sex and relationships (a story for another time).
Fast forward umpteen years. When I first started poking around the online community this year, I saw quite a bit that made me cautious to identify with DS and femdom, but also quite a bit that resonated with me enough to feel I was nearing home. On the home side, there's been reading through the archives at Male Submission Art, the glory that is Tumblr, and the writings of real flesh-and-blood dominants like Dev, and Ferns, and Stabbity, and Professor Chaos and Fizz.
On the caution side, I've read a lot from others who have much more experience than I do in the BDSM community, and I'll have to rely on their assessment of the privileging of doms, and the devaluing of submissive men that abounds. I don't doubt that these are real systemic issues within the community. It does, after all, exist within a larger overarching culture that is sexist and misogynistic, so I wouldn't expect the BDSM community to be magically immune to all of that crap. So yeah, color me absolutely unsurprised that traditionally "masculine" coded things like dominance are privileged, and that those who don't neatly fit the gender binary are marginalized and penalized.
Others have written about seemingly prevalent assumptions about dominance, and the various things that are wrong with femdom. I've read plenty of pieces disparaging the "true domme" "true sub" "one true way of DS" bullshit. But the thing is, I've never actually read any article/blog post or talked to anyone that seriously supported those claims to "truth." And I'm left wondering, who exactly are all these folks arguing with?
Maybe I'm just a young whipper snapper who has no memory of how things used to be with all the rules protocols, and formal hierarchies. Maybe it's just a reflection of the enlightened little corner of the DS Internet community that I've stumbled into (see blogroll to the right). Maybe the folks writing these pieces are distilling and aggregating the essence of a hundred different experiences they've had in person and online with "One Truers" and others who embody whatever aspect of DS or femdom they're critiquing. I don't know. I just know that I have no direct experience of these One Truers and others, and it's almost like I'm hearing a completely one-sided argument when I read these pieces. I tend to agree with them, but I have yet to come across somebody actually arguing the other side (e.g., taking the position that there is a right way/wrong way to do DS, dommes should be ice queens, subs can't have a sense of self-worth/take care of their own needs, etc.). Those people probably exist, but are they really that prominent, wielding any kind of influence in the community? Or are they just nobs on the Internet?
If I tried to take an anti-Truer position myself I'd just feel like I was addressing some boogey strawdom that only exists in some vague, theoretical sense. So instead of negatively defining my sense of what it means to be dominant by describing what it isn't or critiquing various femdom stereotypes to determine what it shouldn't be or how those don't fit for me, I'd rather frame it in a positive way. In that spirit...
For me, dominance is:
- Responsible control
- Drawn from strength, tempered with flexibility
- Facilitative (i.e., "holding the space"*)
- And above all, FUN
All the rest is details that vary according to taste - the sprinkles on the hot fudge sundae. It doesn't matter what color they are, or if the nuts and the cherry on top are absent - those things don't make it any less of a delicious summer treat as long as the core components of ice cream and hot fudge are there. That's my incredibly stupid and inartful way of saying it's not what you do but how you do it that makes DS, and nothing is inherently dominant or inherently submissive**. Giving a bj can be a dominant act, being served dinner can be a submissive act, and just because I don't like whipping or degrading someone doesn't mean I'm not a "true" dominant or whatever.
So forget femdom and all its baggage! It's a mythical beast as far as I'm concerned, anyway. From now on, I'm identifying as a practitioner of fundom, where the only rule is: if you're not having (enthusiastic, consensual) fun, ur doin it wrong.
* Kitty Stryker talks a little about "building a container" here, and I hope to write more about this conception of dominant-as-vessel in the future.
**Ok - maybe not nothing...I find it difficult to conceive how a kowtow could be done in a dominant way. Prove me wrong!