OPINIONS

Dominatrices: MIA

At first I definitely didn’t look for kink or BDSM on the Internet — I wasn’t good enough with the Internet to know what pop-up blockers were, and I’m pretty sure Google Chrome wasn’t even around at the time.

But whatever the reason, when a black-clad woman with a sneer on her face and a whip in her hand popped up onto my screen, I didn’t even notice the person she was whipping. My first thought was: whoa.

The image of the “dominatrix” in our minds gets more and more detailed as we grow up, whether or not we find ourselves involved with kink. Dark red or black lipstick, form-fitting black leather or latex gloves, a vicious-looking riding crop or flogger, high heels — especially the high heels — you’re probably imagining something right now, aren’t you?

Porn and other sensationalist media does a very good job of painting the character of a seductive, sadistic woman, dominant in her actions and desires. At her feet is a rich, white man — some politician or other man in a position of power — trussed up like a pig, a ball gag in his mouth. Usually it looks like he’s enjoying himself, almost comically so, begging for the punishment or discipline that the dominatrix can give him.

When I joined the Bay Area kink community around October, I honestly thought I would see more of that. It seemed an empowering stereotype for women; in the Bay Area, arguably one of the more progressive environments in America, shouldn’t there be truckloads of dominant women? Too many to go around? So many dominatrices (and that is the plural, for those wondering) that they resort to whipping the floor out of boredom?

But go to the Citadel play floor on any given night and you’ll see maybe one dominant woman, maybe two. They won’t be wearing high heels, aren’t done up in heavy makeup and, if you asked, would make a face at you if you mention the word “dominatrix.” Their partners in the scene are typically their friends, play partners or romantic interests — not a politician to be seen.

There are so few of them. Eight months later, and I can still count the dominant women I know on the fingers of one hand, and none of them identify as a dominatrix.

Why?

Outside the scene, it is incredibly hard for a woman to assert power of any kind. In the workplace, in politics, in the household — women rarely have spaces where they make the decisions, where they call the shots and where they get the moment they ask for it. It’s hard being dominant when there are so few role models, and that’s exactly where the dominatrix stereotype comes in. Many dominant women take a look at the common perception of a “dominatrix,” look back at themselves and feel at a loss. It’s like a thousand people all sit down to take a midterm, and no one has any instructions on what to do.

To be honest, that’s what happened to me. I didn’t know how to be dominant, but I could be a hardcore submissive like no one’s business and felt happy enough there to stop exploring. “I’m a woman good at submission,” I thought, and was satisfied at first. But purely by chance, I found myself negotiating my way into a dominant role one night (remind me to tell you that story some day) and was too excited to think about my complete lack of experience. We finished negotiating, I looked my partner in the eye, and swallowed nervously before reaching for my flogger.

Long story short, I don’t identify as exclusively submissive any more.

I’ve found over time that there are many, many types of dominant women — and there are definitely trends, definitely a few rules on how to be a dominant woman.

1. Be dominant.

2. Be a woman.

Every community has their idea of the “dominatrix;” every woman has their own dominatrix to deal with. For the working women, it’s seemingly blazers and power suits and cold, feminine-shunning machines who make it big, are snappy with the children and smile only when they get their paycheck. For the queer women, it’s sharp-mouthed balls of activist energy decked out in combat boots, leather vests and tattoos.

But the reality is that none of these “dominatrices” are as common as we think they are. There are few rules for being a dominant woman, remember?

No matter what communities you may find yourselves in — ethnic, occupational, gendered, religious — you’ll find ideas of what it means to “look” tough, stereotypes that represent one model but not the only model. If you’re lost, I suggest trying some different kind of clothing for size: If it doesn’t fit, toss it aside and go on finding your strength. This is for all you women out there — not just kinky folk! Dominant or not, there are no rules on how to be you.

(Though let me be honest: It’s pretty hard to whip someone while wearing heels — messes with your balance.)

 

Contact Lily Zheng at lilyz8 “at” stanford.edu.

Advertisment ad adsense adlogger