It may not fit the modern feminist vision but as women become more powerful in the business world, they’re relinquishing control between the sheets.
According to popular wisdom, a dominatrix’s best client is the high-powered businessman who needs someone to order him around for a while to contrast having to be the boss all the time. With women taking on more and more power and control in the business world, it stands to reason that this phenomenon would transfer to them too, that women with a great amount of responsibility at work would feel the need to give up control in the bedroom.
I became interested in exploring this concept based on my own experience. My career path has been varied, but has nearly always featured a significant amount of responsibility since I’ve owned and managed several businesses. At home, I take on the task of handling the finances and no major household decision is made without me. In contrast, I’ve always enjoyed being submissive sexually and as I’ve started to dig at the root of why it works for me, one of the major reasons I found is that the bedroom is the one place I don’t feel pressured to make the decisions and call the shots.
Career is certainly not the only area of a woman’s life where she may enjoy a significant level of control, so it’s not just the stereotypical pantsuit-wearing executive that may appreciate a reversal of power dynamic in the bedroom.
Kit, 30, is a stay-at-home mother of three from Regina, Saskatchewan. Since her husband has a very demanding job, many of the household responsibilities fall on her and only her. “I have to run a tight ship because if I didn’t my house would fall apart and because of that, I am a bit of a drill sergeant,” she says. A self-described “alpha female, control freak, perfectionist,” she nonetheless prefers to let her husband call the shots sexually. “I joke often that I run the ship out here and that my husband runs the show in there (the bedroom).”
Twenty-three-year-old Stephanie makes her living as a sex worker in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and while she has had only a few clients who have wanted the full dominatrix experience, she finds that nearly all of the men who use her services want a woman who will take control. This makes it even more appealing for Stephanie to submit in her private sex life. “I’m really nurturing,” she says, “So in a lot of my relationships, I go out of my way to take care of people.” Her supportive nature combined with the expectations to take charge at work mean that when it comes to her own sex life, she’s more than willing to give up all control to her partner.
Kristine, 32, feels a similar kind of obligation to the people that surround her. She works in sales support in Boulder, Colorado, but when asked about the areas of her life in which she takes control, she doesn’t mention her job. She describes herself as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) or empath. “I am acutely aware of everyone and everything around me at all times. I feel responsible for everyone and what they are feeling and what I should be doing to help,” she says. For her, submission in her 24/7 Dom/sub relationship provides an opportunity to focus her attention on the needs and wishes of just one person and block out the bombardment of stimulation she experiences from the outside world. “Having what’s expected of me lined out is soothing,” she explains. “It allows me to let go of the feeling of responsibility I have to everything around me.”
All three women come up with different possible explanations when asked what they think is at the core of their desire to be submissive. Kit talks about growing up without a father resulting in what she describes as “daddy issues” that she thinks probably have something to do with it. Kristine says she read too many “bodice ripper” romance novels when she hit puberty. All of them agree that a big part of what makes it appealing for them to give up their power in bed is that they have so much of it to wield in other areas of their lives.
So what do they have to say to those who claim that a woman taking on a submissive role sexually is just surrendering to the oppressive, patriarchal messaging that society feeds us and is therefore anti-feminist? Kristine doesn’t see it as a gender issue at all. In the BDSM community, she says, the traits that society may traditionally associate with a woman’s role are simply those of a submissive, regardless of whether it is a man or a woman. “I have yet to experience a subculture with so little expectation placed on someone’s gender. (People) aren’t pushed to conform to any specific gender norm. If that’s not feminist, I don’t know what is.” Kit points out that being able to choose to give up power in the bedroom is itself a measure of the power a submissive woman possesses. “Being honest and open are two great powers a woman can hold in the bedroom,” she says.
Many women have important obligations to work, home, family, friends and relationships, resulting in a lot of pressure to keep everything afloat. Every woman has her own methods of managing the stress and for some, submitting to a sexual partner’s control helps lift the burden.