Please note: This post, and the post it links to, discusses my personal sex life -- or to be more accurate, my tastes in porn -- in a certain amount of detail. Family members and others who don't want to read that, please don't.
This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.
Has anyone else noticed a drastic shift in kinky porn in the last few years?
It used to be that the most common trope in kinky porn was the dominant woman. Madame Cruella, Mistress of Pain, Kitten with a Whip -- these were the themes and images that dominated, if you will, the world of SM porn, both in writing and in visual art. It was a cliche, even: everyone knew the cliche of the powerful business executive who paid to get beaten and humiliated once a week -- or who built a library of fem-dom porn to help him fantasize about it.
But in the last few years, I've been seeing a definite shift. In the kinky porn that comes across my path (and a fair amount of kinky porn comes across my path), I'm seeing less and less porn starring dominant women, and more and more starring submissive women and dominant men.
I'll admit that I haven't studied this trend with any scientific rigor: this observation is very much anecdotal, and I could be talking out of my ass. But I really don't think so. I was actually so used to the prevalence of dominant women in SM porn that it took me a while to realize that they weren't nearly as prevalent as they used to be.
And now I'm wondering: What's that about?
You could argue that this trend is sexism at work. Most porn is still aimed at a primarily male audience, after all. And while men were happy to fantasize about powerful women with whips back when it was overwhelmingly a man's world, as women have been gaining more and more power, men are fantasizing more and more about taking that power away.
I suppose there might be something to that theory. But it can't possibly be all there is. Because women are having these fantasies, too. In droves. Women writers and artists are creating a lot of this male-dom female-sub porn -- and increasingly, a female audience is sucking it up. Myself included. I eat it up like popcorn.
In fact, you could argue that this dynamic is happening because of the opposite of sexism. Women have had submissive and masochistic fantasies for ages, and porn is finally starting to cater to our goddamn fantasies of being the helpless, vulnerable center of attention/ object of desire -- not just men's.
But I think there's something else going on here, something that's key. Again, I haven't studied this with any kind of rigor, so I'm just going to speak for myself, on the assumption that what's true for me may be true for others as well.
I think that we fantasize about what we don't have. Stressed-out city folks dream of tropical paradises and bucolic rural getaways; bored small-town folks dream of the excitement and glamour of the big city. Unhappy single people dream of true love; unhappy married people dream of being footloose and fancy-free. Etc., etc., etc. That's the whole point of a fantasy, isn't it? Even if your life is generally good, you're still not going to fantasize about the things you already have.
So what does this have to do with male-dom female-sub porn? After all, we still live in a sexist world where women have less power than men. Wouldn't women and men alike be fantasizing about men in shackles and women with whips?
In the much broader and more obvious sense, of course that's true. We've made a lot of advances, but the world is still very sexist indeed. But -- again, speaking only for myself now -- in a more immediate day-to-day sense, the reality that I want a fantasy escape from isn't sexism.
It's the fight against sexism.
It's the constant vigilance against the stupid sexist indoctrination that's been sunk into my head since I was an infant. It's the constant struggle to be assertive when I've been taught to be compliant, to speak up when I've been taught to be a good listener, to argue when I've been taught to be agreeable... all without turning into an asshole. It's the constant half-second arguments I have in my head every time a guy says or does something sexist -- is this particular battle worth fighting? Do I respond, or let it go?
It gets exhausting. Not just for women, but for men as well, who're contending with the flip side of gender indoctrination and changing roles and expectations. And I think a big part of the appeal of the male-dom female-sub fantasy is that it offers a break from the fight. It offers an opportunity -- whether in a role-play scene in real life or a masturbation fantasy in your head -- to take a vacation from the battle, to briefly
wallow in the familiar roles, in a safe place that's separate from your everyday life.
And like most vacation spots, for most people it isn't the place where you'd really want to live. Sure, there are people who do 24/7 male-dom female-sub relationships, just like there are people who sell their houses and move to Tahiti. But for most people, part of the pleasure of a good vacation is how happy you are to come home from it, the fresh perspective it gives you on everything you love about your everyday life. The indulgence in a fantasy of a masterful man and a compliant or helpless woman gives you a break from the struggle against sexism in your everyday life... so you can emerge rested and refreshed and ready to do battle once more.