Shifting the Discourse on Female Dominance

Posted in political theory by Cal Stockton on November 7, 2009

I want to start my first group blog experience by explaining why it is important to me in particular to start and write this blog on bdsm issues relating to women who top and dom. (We’ll get to the convoluted terminology posts later on, I suppose.)

I remember what it was like trying to first explore my sexuality and kinks, when I had nothing but pro dommes’ websites and terrible porn aimed at male viewers around to guide me. I remember what it was like to first – finally! – discover that I absolutely could top the way I wanted to. And even now, as an active duty pervert, I still feel marginalized by our culture’s portrayal of toppish women. Frankly, I’m fucking sick of having to struggle against a culture that tells me I must be secretly submissive, or that the only power I have is the power to withhold sex, or that I can’t possibly actually top anyone for reals unless I wear clothing that restricts my movement and sneer properly down at my groveling partner.

This is a social justice movement. I’m not going to go out and organize an unconference. I’m sick of going to local kink events and feeling like no one there is really my sort of geek. But this is important to me, and it’s about damn time for me to start speaking up and fighting back.

I was looking through my email archives earlier, thinking about a short email exchange I had back in undergrad. It turns out that it has been almost ten years to the day since I emailed a random pro domme in a fit of desperation, asking for practical advice on how to handle the fact that my then-boyfriend thought the ball gag we’d bought simply tasted too bad to use. In retrospect, I can’t believe that I actually emailed this complete stranger with what felt like such a ridiculous, stupid question. But back then my school didn’t have anything like CV, and I had nowhere else to turn. I’m sick of pro dommes defining the common perception of dominant women, but I’m still grateful that once upon a time, Ms. Morgana replied without a trace of snarkiness or condescension and gave me a few practical tips and words of encouragement.

Can you imagine? I felt so alone. I actually met Ivy just a few years after that email exchange, and was a bit blown away to finally meet another woman who actually, y’know, liked being in control and doing delicious and terrible things to other people. Not as a hobby or occasional way to spice things up, but as a sexual orientation. (Well, that’s what being a toppish switch is for me, anyways. I’ll let her speak for herself.) It was wonderful, even though we’ve learned over years of friendship that we have very different tastes and ways of thinking about what we do.

That’s pretty much why we chose to make this a group blog. I could write a personal blog about My Kink And What It Means To Me, and maybe it would help people out there who are into just what I’m into, but that’s not the point. The point is to show the world that female toppishness and dominance can encompass people me and people like Ivy and Delilah. It has room for all of us. And if that’s what you’re into, whatever your details may be, it has room for you, too.

For me, this blog is a thank you to the stranger who answered my first call into the dark ten years ago, and to all the other people who’ve helped me learn how to figure out what I want and how to get it. (That’s the real trick. Not tips on dealing with outdated sex toys. Though really, both are valuable!) That, and it’s a direct response to Maymay’s challenge for better resources, for Finally! Something that speaks to dominant women!

My goal here is to shift the discourse on female dominance. I know there are other women out there writing about this already, but we’re still underrepresented, and I want to do my part. It’s a feminist (yes, you are) issue, and a personal matter of changing the social discourse to better accept and encompass my reality.

I could sit here and quote Foucault at you all day, but it comes down to this: We have to move the Overton window such that concepts like ‘femdom must be entirely focused on the arousal of the male submissive’, ‘real men aren’t submissive’, and ‘women can only maintain control by denying sex’ are no longer within the window of conceivable claims.

The Overton window is a concept in political theory that holds that of the full spectrum of possible ideas on an issue, only a subset are actually acceptable in the discourse. For example, the discourse on abortion could theoretically range from forcing all women of reproductive age to bear children until their bodies give out to granting all women sole and sovereign control over their own bodies, but at this stage, the Overton window actually only encompasses statements in the approximate range from ‘women should only be permitted to to receive abortions in cases where the mother’s life is in danger’ to ‘women must have the right to choose abortions up until the stage when the fetus becomes viable’.

Anyways, the concept of the Overton window is neatly illustrated here.

According to Overton, the trick is to move the window such that previously acceptable ideas become taboo, and previously fringe ideas become acceptable in mainstream discourse. He believed the best method for shifting the Overton window is to promote extreme viewpoints in order to tug the window towards less extreme fringe viewpoints in the same direction.

Bitchy Jones is still my favorite example of an extreme voice doing brilliant work towards shifting the Overton window in the discourse on dominant woman. But if the rest of us come out of the woodwork to make our voices heard as well, friends, they may think it’s a movement. And that’s what it is. Because I’m sick of feeling battered on all sides by fucked up images and messages about my sexual orientation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some windmills at which to tilt.

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