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One of the Nineteen

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 by

I spent one morning in high school leading my best friend around on a leash. Nothing fancy–just a length of cheap satin ribbon, hand-sewn around his neck with a long tail left over. I walked him down the school hallways and into my classes, where he would hop onto the seat next to me (on all fours, space permitting) and sit quietly until it was time to move on. Other students stared, either sidelong or with unabashed disgust. We soaked it up delightedly. At lunchtime, I handed the leash off to his girlfriend, and she kept him for the rest of the day. It was everyday casual fun to us–a running joke in which he was our plaything.

Why did it take a decade after that before I considered I might be something called “dominant”?

In 2007, still more than a year before I met the person who taught me the term “D/s,” Bitchy Jones was asking:

If there are twenty submissive men for every dominant woman – where are the other 19 women?

19 out of every twenty dominant women aren’t happy or comfortable with femdom as an identity or a place to live. That’s a lot.

That’s 95%.

95% of dominant women aren’t comfortable in femdom.

I was one of Bitchy’s nineteen women. I had no image of dominance other than the PVC-encased dominatrix, which–while fun to look at–sure isn’t anything like me. Femdoms were supposed to be tall, skinny, and busty, projecting feminine desire while sneering down at their groveling submissives. From the first time I saw such an image, I could feel the ache of a craving for something in it, but it paled beside the strength of my knowledge that I could never be that woman. I’m not skinny. I’m not busty. I’m not feminine. I’m not even especially tall. I’m a fat agender person who keeps medium-sized boobs under loose, comfortable shirts, and if I’m honest I’m a total softie with the people I care about. “Kink,” in my understanding at the time, was something for pretty, sexy, confident people: nothing like me. “BDSM” was an abstract fantasy, something harsh and angry rather than something that real people around me were doing with their loved ones every day. In that twisted model of the world, not matching the classic femdom image didn’t just make me not a dominant. With no understanding of the breadth or depth of possibility, much less awareness of the conflation of terminology, I actually believed I was not kinky.

I got an instant message recently from a friend I haven’t seen for a few years. She asked how I was, and I told her (among other things) that I’d been exploring the BDSM scene. She asked me some probing questions, confessing that the idea of dominance intrigued her, so I shared some of what I’ve been learning. She had no idea that BDSM doesn’t have to be about pain, or that you can still be dominant when you’re the one receiving pleasure. She felt guilty for being turned on by the idea of calling a man degrading names … and was amazed when I told her that some men are turned on by that too. This is someone with whom I’ve spent many a late night talking about sex and relationships, but BDSM had never come up before. I didn’t know she was interested in dominance or humiliation. From the sound of it, she hadn’t either. My friend, all this time, had been one of Bitchy’s nineteen missing dominants too.

The Edukink teachers tell a story about a man who came to an introductory BDSM event, for his first time, at quite an advanced age.

“What kept you away so long?” they asked him.

“Well,” he said, “I always knew I was kinky, but I was married for a long time and I figured my wife wouldn’t be into it. Not long ago, though, my wife passed away …

… and then I read her diary.”

There was a pause, in the class where I heard this, and then a collective gasp.

Hearing that story secondhand breaks my heart. My own lived experience, though–my own, even so little, wasted time–makes me furious. I’m furious because of how long I believed I wasn’t even worthy of love or desire, much less cool enough for “kink.” I’m furious because, while I’m writing this, kids are killing themselves to escape oppression instead of celebrating love for whomever they love. I’m furious because shame and shameless fiction are being used every day to justify abuse, while sexuality without shame is censored. I’m furious because we have pulled a mask over our own collective face, a painted illusion of what is “perfect” and “normal,” and we are suffocating ourselves with it.

I’m furious because not conforming to a stereotype robbed me of my identity.

I am furious and achingly helpless, knowing that somewhere out there, right now, there is another shy fat perverted gender-atypical teenager being told over and over that they cannot be beautiful, sexual, or kinky, and I don’t know how to find them and convince them it’s not true. All I can do is write and hope they hear me.

Are you there? Listen:

There is no invisible line dividing you from the people who are allowed to have healthy, fulfilling, kinky sex lives. You don’t have to look like people in magazines. You don’t have to fit a prescribed role, gender or otherwise. You don’t have to be willing to fuck anyone, or limit yourself to fucking one person, or do either of those things but replacing “fuck” with “love.” You don’t have to be healthy or neurotypical. You don’t have to be between eighteen and thirty-five, or have any of the accepted mainstream fetishes, or make enough money to fill your closet and toybag with leather. Just the way you are right now, you already deserve to have healthy, respectful relationships, whether or not those relationships include BDSM or sex or love or none of those things. You deserve to explore what you want, to have clear and honest information available to you, and to express yourself safely. You deserve these things, not because I have invited you into my elitist kinky club, but because healthy, informed sexuality is for everyone.

And that fury I mentioned? That’s why I’m here. It’s why I’m writing down the story of my own exploration, even the parts where I’m vulnerable and afraid, and why I’m doing it somewhere publicly accessible. I may not be loud enough alone to be heard over the cacophony of messages informing us what we must be, but frankly, I do not know what else to do. Maybe, if I’m strong enough, I can at least make a counterpoint ring out a little more clearly.

18 Responses to “One of the Nineteen”

  1. […] via One of the Nineteen « Lab Coats & Lingerie. […]

  2. Stabbity says:

    This post rocks so very, very much.

    What especially pisses me off is that I actually fit the stereotype relatively well and it still took *years* for me to figure out why I was so fascinated by femdom erotica. Absolutely nobody lives up to this standard and somehow we wonder why there are so few dominant women active in the scene.

  3. […] hard-hitting take on the problems with our restrictive model of what it means to be a female top in One of the nineteen. “I had no image of dominance other than the PVC-encased dominatrix, which–while fun to […]

  4. Dev says:

    This is an awesome post. I was pretty lucky to find and accept kink around the same time that I was accepting myself as a sexual being. This was probably largely because I actually do fit the stereotype pretty well, like Stabbity. But even so, when I entered the public world of Femdom things felt very strange. Why were all the men being treated like public property? Why were all of the women wearing heels?

    I’m definitely adding you to my blogroll. :)

    • Fizz says:

      But even so, when I entered the public world of Femdom things felt very strange.

      This is one of the reasons I’m so sorry to be missing the next femdom party at my local dungeon. The previous one was my first BDSM party, and I didn’t really have any context in which to make observations. Now I do, and I want to make them.

      Why were all the men being treated like public property? Why were all of the women wearing heels?

      Interestingly, neither of these is femdom-specific, if you replace “men” in the first sentence with “submissive.” (See, one of the observations I’d like to make: how are male and female submissives treated differently in a femdom party?) It’s my understanding that female submissives are treated pretty badly in maledom-centric (“normal” :P) spaces, although I don’t really have direct experience with this, since I don’t really get treated as either a submissive or a typical woman in public.

      And the heels thing is a question I have about, well, women in the world in general. ;) Not that I dislike high heels for themselves–they look nice, and they let me smile down on my six-foot-tall lover. But my feet hurt just thinking about using them as default everyday shoes.

  5. lenae says:

    I’m one of those “shy fat perverted gender-atypical teenagers” ’cause I’m indeed shy, fat, kinky, trans, and 19. I can’t quite see how I’m supposed to have healthy relationships when I’m alone as hell, every single day. I’ve tried engaging with local BDSM/trans/queer communities/organizations and have had almost universally bad experiences. What am I doing wrong? Where do I have to go now? I’m tired of being told things like “you’re in a shitty city” when I don’t have the freedom to move. I’m tired of being socially gatekept away from potentially supportive/friendly people. I’m sick of being hated as a trans woman who doesn’t accept society’s standards for women’s beauty.

    Explaining what people deserve is all fine and well, but in the end, it’s not by telling *me* this that change is achieved. I lack the capital to make any meaningful change in communities that I’m not a part of. It is up to the people who *are* in these communities to make them more accessible to other people.

    Frankly, I find the approach of telling people like me that I deserve something mildly condescending. An understanding of what I do deserve isn’t going to make people reject me less for what my body looks like/being autistic/not having much of an existing social network or whatever other shitty reason.

    • Fizz says:

      Frankly, I find the approach of telling people like me that I deserve something mildly condescending.

      I apologize for coming off that way; it doesn’t sound like you’re in the set of people that part of the post was intended to address. You KNOW that you’re kinky, trans, etc. and you know that there are organizations and community around these things. You know, for example, that this blog exists. That puts you in a wildly different position from where I was at 19, or even at 24. The paragraph about deserving is not an exhortation to the individual to change the community; it’s an exhortation to change the mindset of the self, in a way I needed back then but you do not seem to need now. Given that it’s surrounded by bitching about the community, though, I can see how that isn’t necessarily clear.

      I agree with you entirely that the change in the community needs to come from inside it. I’m not very inside it myself, yet, but I’m working on it.

      • lenae says:

        Ah — I get more of what you mean. Understood and agreed.

        I suppose I should make myself a bit clearer in what I specifically mean about the change I want to see in such communities/organizations. I refer to the problematic aspects of what Jo Freeman calls “structureless groups” to in her essay __The Tyranny of Structurelessness__ [http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm).

        [I’d like to go a bit further about such problematic aspects — is this an appropriate place to do so?]

  6. Alisa says:

    I keep reading your blog and all I can think is “hell to the yeah, sister!” so I figured I’d take a moment to actually say thank you, and yes, that, what you said, exactly that!

  7. Librium says:

    Self respect, equality, anti-oppression.

    Love it!

  8. alice says:

    I knew I was a Dom/Top long before I knew what D/s was as well. My issue was where I was introduced into the scene and at a time when female Doms were not just uncommon but completely ignored. I had so many men try to Dom/Top me that I spent most of my time defending my physical body from harm in addition to my beliefs that no one is good enough to bondage me, beat me, flog me, etc. I have found since then that I do enjoy the feel of rope on my skin, but I still can’t do bondage… isn’t that what body harnesses are for? however, finding someone to tie me a purty body harness that doesn’t get to beat me afterwards is very hard to find. And I spend less time now defending my Domliness, but there are a few idiots who think they can top me and if I’m not in the mood I come off as the bitch from hell…. of course some Doms (male or female) try to size up the competition and like the power fight to see who wins… but if it’s someone that is getting my message they expressed disappointment and move on to being friends instead of trying to find ways to Dom/Top me. Although I find switches to attempt to violate those boundaries more often than Doms… they think I’m missing out on something and they should be the one to introduce me to it, but they don’t understand that at some point I have tried these things and the end result is not cathartic, healing, or healthy for me or for the person attempting to do those things to me. And I have never found a lack of play partners in public or private

  9. […] I’m making that up? Read this article. No, seriously, take a minute to read it. It’s good stuff. And it makes the point that our […]

  10. Fergus Mackinnon says:

    Well, I suppose it’s kind of redundant given the above post, but I came to this link because of a reference in an article on the good men project’s site.

    While I can’t comment on the ideology beyond *nod* ‘that makes sense’, the BDSM sub-culture is on my list of things to study since someone referenced it in a discussion recently, so thank you for providing anecdotal information for me.

  11. Ruby Ryder says:

    Many many thanks for honest, open, articulate blogging. Wow. (Found you through the link on the GMP.) Porn does such a disservice to just about all areas of sexuality, including and especially female domination. Society does not accept the image of the dominant woman well, sadly. Those are the two biggest reasons for the 19; porn and societal taboo.

  12. NulloMe says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for this insight.

    It seems that the stereotype and the generalization have done their damage again!!

    It is a relative necessity for communication, but it creates pigeon holes, that we simply do not fit within comfortably, and so we reject them out of hand, as unsuitable.

    I have never really fit into any pigeon holes – and I do not know if I even fit within the generalized “BDSM” cage.

    But where else is a man with a massive fetish, fantasy and fixation to be castrated by a woman, and have her cut off my dick too, and turn me into her pussy licking eunuch, to hang out at??
    Where else, will I find a woman, that is into that – or at least accepting of it – than in the kink/BDSM community??

    But I do take your point. A woman may well be quite dominant, and not be into leather, or thigh-high’s, and so never join the dots, and ever realize, that she actually is a dominant – because when she looks in the mirror, she doesn’t see the image, of what she imagines what a dominant woman looks like.

    I will have to keep that in mind, as I look around.

    For I am not so much into the pain, as to surrender my manhood to her…

    Thanks.

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