From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
- "The male, who at first tends towards sadism, inclines, at the end of the [19th] century, towards masochism" --The Romantic Agony, chapter La Belle Dame Sans Merci
Male submission describes BDSM and other sexual activities in which the submissive partner is male. It generally refers to sexual activities and desires in which a male-identified person, such as a man, plays a subservient role to a dominant partner. The term "male submissive" and its abbreviation malesub are widely used in BDSM subcultures to refer to such a person. The female dominant counterpart is abbreviated femdom, while the male dominant counterpart is abbreviated maledom.
Variations of submissive expression
The particular activities considered submissive for men vary widely depending on local and cultural custom as well as the context for a particular encounter. For people whose sexuality is strongly heteronormative and "vanilla", merely breaking from traditional sexual positions such as having sexual intercourse with the female-bodied partner "on top" may be considered a form of male submission. Within the context of sexual power-exchange (D/s) relationships, male submission may take a number of other forms, including sadomasochistic sex.
Impact on feminism
The existence, motivations, and effects of men who wish to be sexually submissive to women is a topic of debate among feminists. The existence and arguable prevalence of submissive men often challenge the dominant paradigm of masculinity as inherently dominant. At the same time, it has been argued by anti-pornography feminists to be evidence of a reification of men's patriarchal oppression over women since many venues for submissive men feature the buying of sexual fantasy from a professional dominatrix, activities that are seen as inherently degrading to women. These views have been criticized by sex-positive feminists as silencing or excluding the voice of sex workers from feminist discourse surrounding submissive male sexuality.
Some feminists, such as Robin Morgan, view male submission as an expression of "envy" of "what they think women experience", regardless of the man's sexual orientation. In Against Sadomasochism: A Radical Feminist Analysis, Morgan writes, "If they grovel to a male master they are mimicking (for fun) an experience all women in patriarchy are in some way or another forced to endure in reality. If they cower before a female 'dominatrix,' they are superficially reversing, and thereafter trivializing, real women's real oppression."
Both dominant women who are not professional dominatrices as well as submissive men have largely abstained from engaging in the debate.
Relationship to chivalry
Some interpretations of male submission draw analogies to chivalry, in both positive and negative contexts. While some people believe that cultural incentives to promote traditionally chivalrous actions promote negative stereotypes of men, others base their concept of male submission around the perceived strength of "the knight in shining armor."
- Dominance and submission (BDSM)
- Male dominance (BDSM)
- Female dominance
- Female submission
- Pegging (sexual practice)
- Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
- Sadism and masochism in fiction
- Story of O
- Hercules and Omphale