Essay,  Female Domination,  Female Led Relationships

Regaining Our Agency In FemDom Through The Female Gaze

Men and their desires have always been at the center of Female Domination. “It was men who coined the phrase,”  Elise Sutton wrote in their article What is Female Domination and Female Supremacy? ”to categorize their sexual desires to submit to the female gender” The female gaze isn’t part of it. It seldom has been, which is why turning the tables and prioritizing our gaze and our desires over theirs, making them the center of it, is an important aid in ceasing to be being the objects of Female Domination, instead, being the subjects.

Femdom literature, artwork, photography, and other artistic portrayals, have been fashioned predominantly by men. It’s the male gaze that prescribes what a dominant woman should look, behave, and live her lifestyle. In Sacher-Masoch’s erotic novella, “Venus in Furs”, Severin imposes on Wanda what his view of what a dominant woman is, dictating how she is to carry out her role as his cruel owner and mistress. Prescribing into the collective FemDom consciousness, not only that a dominant woman ought to be cruel, but the concept of men as “slaves”. “Venus in Furs” continues to be a staple in the repertoire of informal FemDom education, along with other erotic works written by men for men, shaping their behavior as self-purported slaves and submissives, along with expectations of the women they seek to be “owned” by.

According to Sutton, it is these works that “express how powerful women are in their eyes and how weak they feel in a woman’s presence”. That one must not be offended by their “graphic” nature, rather read between the lines of what they produce, seek out for the underlying message in order to access the key insight into the male psyche. As it is once that “she can see herself as he does that she will make them weak, break down barriers and—in my reading of the text— use manipulative tactics to get what she wants. Which is an integral part of FemDom works and imagination: the cruel manipulatrix using her sexuality against men in order to “enslave” them. As Sutton suggests, it will trigger their feelings and desires, thus becoming weak and helpless. Donning stereotypical, commercial, pornographic dominatrix fashion and using cliché verbiage, catering to their objectifying view of us, it seems, will successfully get a man to submit to us.

Ms Rika, in her book Uniquely Rika, prefaces it and the need to write it, by expressing her frustration over the lack of authentic resources there are on female-centered power exchange, stressing how most of which exist, “are structured to sell to the male-centric ‘turn your wife into a leather, whip-toting dominatrix’ fantasy that I, like so many women, find oppressive.” Contrary to Sutton’s exposition, a man’s submission is based in a “desire to please; not in Gestapo tactics and psychological dependence.” Women don’t need to manipulate men using their sexuality to “get” them to submit,we don’t  need to “‘trick’ a man into serving, or blackmail him, or hypnotize him or break his will or any other techniques” so often found in male-centric FemDom fantasies. Ms Rika echoes the fact that most of what is written about Female Domination is written by men, for men, and understandably, “we are influenced by this imagery whenever we think about power exchange and relationships that overtly deal with Dominance and submission.”

Other dominant women share those frustrations. Lady Ambrosia, lifestyle and professional dominatrix from Melbourne Australia, believes “the male gaze is real in all forms of representation. Representation of men’s desires (whether kink or not), men’s priorities and men as naturalised protagonists is all taken for granted. Society absorbs these notions within it’s collective psyche and this contributes to a sidelining the priorities and needs of women in many realms of life.  As women, we come to see our needs as less relevant. It seems especially a shame, but unsurprising in a pervasively patriarchal society, that a genre that claims to be about women’s power and desire more than anything – female domination – is undermined by the male gaze.”

Sharyn Ferns, Australian lifestyle FemDom, author and blogger of “Domme Chronicles: On being a dominant woman”, thinks “the lack of female gaze (anywhere ever) negates female sexuality and desire (not just in F/m, everywhere). ‘Women aren’t visual’ is a trope that is clearly proven false as soon as you give women content that they find hot and sexy and arousing.” and that “acknowledging women’s sexuality and desire is really important, or we will forever be relegating it to a secondary or irrelevant aspect of people’s lives. And we (as a society) Do do that, from childhood onwards: Girl’s bodies are controlled and regulated and objectified from a very young age, and that all feeds into suppressing or ignoring a huge swathe of women’s autonomy, ability to explore and grow.”

The Lady Henry, lifestyle and professional dominatrix from Toronto, Canada, voices frustration over the fact that we aren’t “paperdolls to be cut out for someone’s fantasy and then disposed of. We’re not masturbatory tools. We’re experts, guides and empaths. We are people. We love being creative. We are not to be told what to do or be changed to make someone else’s dick hard.”

In a field that prioritizes men’s desires and gaze, Lady Dreams, Toronto-based lifestyle dominant, puts forth a counter-proposal in her project “Dreams Made Flesh”, where the exploration of the FemDom gaze is prioritized. “Dreams Made Flesh” stemmed from an exasperation that resulted with many a supposed FemDom BDSM books across the room due to how heavily they cater to the male gaze and wanted to “create a movement that would grow and give people a reason to create FemDom material for and from the female gaze.”.

“The male gaze has been the default setting for so long”, she says,  “that even women write and draw that way until they make a conscious effort not to. So this is about raising awareness, educating, as well as creating a structure to inspire the creativity and art I want.”

She describes her concept of the female gaze as “what would typically attract a female looking at something. Where would her eyes go first? What would she find enticing or attractive? With DMF we are primarily exploring Femdom gaze. So what part of the art would interest a Femdom visually? Let’s make that the focus of the art pieces.And with stories, again, we try to tell them from the perspective a Femdom would see them. Not necessarily from a Femdom point of view…but with the focus on where her eye would go.So the descriptive passages aren’t about her staring at herself in the mirror and describing her breasts in detail…(that’s male gaze). They’re about the male sub’s reactions, what he looks and sounds like as she takes him. They’re about what she finds attractive in others instead of focused on what men would find attractive about her. She is not objectified for the male viewer. She is not the object of the piece. She is the subject. We are trying to cater to a femdom audience instead of a male one.”

To Lady Ambrosia, the female gaze is about “about a woman’s desire being clearly established, made abundantly clear and unwaveringly remaining the axis around which a scene revolves. It is about men genuinely taking an interest in the desires of his Mistress, of genuinely centering her needs. Not just paying lip service to it and manipulating the game to serve his agenda.”  The Lady Henry makes the focus not on acts and situations, but on feelings and intimacy. Shayrn Ferns talks about seeing in the dominant woman’s face and in her actions why she’s doing what she’s doing, and seeing in the submissive why she’s doing it, adding that “pro-tip: It’s not ‘hot chick gets him off’, that’s male gaze”. She wants to see “genuine vulnerability, tears, fear, conflict and I want to see her getting off on it and see that connection between them.”

The Lady Henry makes an emphasis on the fact that the dominant woman’s comfort “is the number one priority. She shouldn’t have to dress up or impress. The males should be the ones to primp and prep in order to pass…Honestly I would just have sub men playing with my back and cuddling all day. It’s the unwavering feeling of safety, acceptance and personal peace of the femdom.  It’s important because femdomme’s We need the mainstream peeps to know that our motto is “You aren’t needed by us. Be good enough to be wanted.” Also everyone has the right to their own sexual expression ( consent based, legal age). All ethnicities, body types, ages, kinks, challenges etc. Female gaze just like feminism gives everyone space and a platform to be normal and not “the other”

Lady Ambrosia believes a paradigm shift is possible. “Women have decentered the male gaze in all forms of art and media for a long time now, there is no reason why such a cultural shift isn’t possible in the genre of female domination too.”

The underrepresentation of the female gaze in artistic portrayals of female domination falsely implies that the FemDom standard are those stereotypical depictions, where the male gaze distorts the reality of Female Domination and normalizes and sustains it as the cultural standard, limiting our perception of other possibilities. 

The way these representations pervade our lives, echoing Ms Rika, the ways they misrepresent Female Domination and dominant women can distort how we see and live ourselves and how rarely it resonates with the real lives of ordinary dominant women. 

We become agents and architects, owners and producers of our own narratives and social discourse, not passive objects portrayed against a backdrop of male desires, subject to that the male gaze says about the women in femdom culture and its perpetuation of distorted and idealized renditions of our realities.

It is through the concept of the female gaze in artistic portrayals of Female Domination, that we appropriate the existing discourse and prescriptions of its architecture and construct an identity decentralized from men, divorced from men’s objectifying gaze and regain our agency.

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