Four lists, arranged in columns, describe traits commonly associated with “men,” “women,” “dominants” and “submissives,” respectively. The column labeled “Act like a man” bears striking similarities to the column “Act like a dominant,” while the column labeled “Act like a woman” closely resembles the items in the list marked “Act like a submissive.”
This image is the heart of a post called “The intersection of performative masculinity/femininity and dominance/submission,” published today by Dev. It’s a brilliant piece illustrating the hegemonic prejudices plaguing both the mainstream and the BDSM worlds. Reading it nearly brought me to tears:
As you can see, how to act like a man neatly maps onto how to act like a dom, and how to act like a woman neatly maps onto how to act like a sub. In this way, heterosexual M/f couples (male dominant, female submissive) wherein the man is a sadist (enjoys giving pain), and the female a masochist (enjoys receiving pain) can easily perform their two roles flawlessly at the same time. This is exemplified by the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey. This book is able to be so easily consumed because it doesn’t trample on anyone’s preconceived notions of what it means to be male or female, dominant or submissive. The M/f couple then, can be at the top of the BDSM hierarchy, with the male dominant on top of course because he’s dominant (and dominants are supposed to be superior).
Where do female dominants and male submissives land in this hierarchy? Female dominants get a higher place in the BDSM hierarchy than male submissives because even though they are stepping outside of the ‘act like a woman box’ 1) they too are dominants, which are intrinsically better than submissives according to our boxes, and 2) they are taking on masculine traits, which lifts their status rather than lowers it. Therefore, the hierarchy is topped by male dominants, then female dominants, then female submissives, and then male submissives. The latter group find themselves at the bottom of the heap because, like female dominants, they cannot reconcile their two roles, but unlike femdoms their new role takes them down a peg rather than boosting them up the ladder.
(Link in the quotation added by me.)
I rarely write blog simply to say, “Go read this other thing,” but this is important enough to do exactly that. Please, please, please go read Dev’s post. It not only contains further analysis of the sexism inherent in mainstream BDSM culture (yes, even subcultures have a mainstream), it offers some generic advice for “throwing out the bad” and “keeping what works.” Just the other day, I published a “PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT for submissive men” (and other marginalized peoples) that I feel is equally important to associate with this post:
The BDSM Scene is an abusive social institution that provides structural cover for rapists, has economic incentives to silence survivors of sexual assault, and contains numerous for-profit businesses actively invested in the exploitation of its own members. Unfortunately, many assailants hold positions of power within the community, which makes it extremely difficult to talk about without being ostracized from the community.
No matter what they say, the BDSM community does NOT hold a monopoly on your sex life nor on your ability to play safely, or to find partners who you love and who will love you. The BDSM community is by and large only supportive of people who are white, heterosexual, class-privileged, cisgendered, conformant to hegemonic societal ideals of beauty, able-bodied, and so on.
The BDSM Scene’s whiteness is classism at work supporting sexism and racism. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. I strongly urge everyone interested in BDSM sexuality to AVOID AND DISASSOCIATE with any and all formal leather/kink/BDSM/fetish organizations in your area.
This is even more important for submissive men, trans people, old women, and fat women, all of whom are routinely used and discarded in both mainstream culture and the BDSM community as nothing more than a butt of a joke.
We deserve better. You deserve better. These people have no interest in doing right by you; most of them are nothing more valuable than privileged shits.
I urge you, from the bottom of my heart and a deeply personal place of empathetic experience, let their world burn. They’re doing it already; they don’t even need the media to make them look bad. Their behavior, abuse cover-ups, and rape apologism mimics the catholic Church, now.
None of this is hyperbole. As I said in a comment on Dev’s post, the “links […] provide details about each assertion made.”
I have been in an epistemically abusive relationship with the BDSM Scene for far too long. Enough. The BDSM Scene and its privileged shits can go frak themselves. And I hope they do.
maymay you are the cat’s meow