Dominatrix: Worshipped and Objectified 

Paul Giamatti of Showtime’s Billions, all tied up as his dominatrix wife looks down on him.

I recently debated two of my readers, Bob and Fred, about whether women like being dominated in consensual sex. 

After searching my files I found a sample of my students, 83 women and 63 men who are not gay/lesbian (because I wanted a sample of people who have sex cross-sexually). I had wondered what my male students believed about women and what women felt, themselves:

Do women like to be dominated

Interest level What men think women want Women’s actual interest
High 37% 14%
Medium 49% 41%
Low 13% 45%

Just over one-third of men thought that women would really enjoy being sexually submissive, nearly half thought they would have at least moderate interest, and just 13% thought that women wouldn’t have too much interest in being on the submissive side of dominating sex.

By comparison, almost half of the women had low interest. Still, more than half did have at least some interest in sexual submission. 

This is pretty consistent with a larger University of Montréal survey which found that just over half of women had fantasized about being dominated.

That’s not so surprising considering that our society spends so much time and effort eroticizing male dominance, which I have written about before.

After discussing this I pointed out:

Our society does eroticize male dominance. But you also see a turnaround with quite a few men also having submission fantasies. A University of Montreal survey found just more than than half of women and just less than half of men had fantasized about being dominated.

But then Bob made some interesting points, saying that when it comes to dominating sex, the roles are still pretty gendered. I found his thoughts interesting and insightful enough to reprint below (lightly edited):

The dominatrix is framed through the male gaze

Men do also have fantasies of being dominated. I’m balanced so while I like to dominate and be in control, a woman being dominant and in control is fun for me too. But despite having a submissive side, I see no appeal to female dominance as it’s typically portrayed. 

Women may dominate men but it’s still “gendered.” In fact, I’d say that it’s still subservient in some ways.

The dominatrix is still a sex object, and sexualized much more than the man she’s dominating, and also much more than a man in a dominant role. The dominatrix is even framed through a male fetish gaze that serves the man.

And since men are, on average, bigger and have more muscle mass it’s less easy for a woman to rag doll a man. (But a woman can still f*ck a guy hard and rough and still be forceful.)

So for a man to be submissive to a dominatrix he becomes the female domme’s dog or doormat pretty much. She mentally dominates him in order to dominate him sexually.

The male is a servant that worships the ground the female domme walks on. Her sex appeal and seduction — historical paths to female power in patriarchy — are what control, what force him to do what she wants.

Male and female rape victims both face disbelief

Rape fantasy is often called submission fantasy because the woman actually has complete control, but I want to distinguish it from submitting to a dominatrix — so rape fantasy or ravaging doesn’t play into the women-dominating-men genre, generally. Men love beautiful women being horny and I would think it ultra flattering to be the focus of lustful aggression and ravaging, but you don’t find it much in porn. 

But I did see an unusual ad for Tag body spray that shows women sexually attacking a man, which would never be shown in reverse since it would be highly disturbing. Myths that women like rape make it hard to believe women, but I’m realizing that men suffer from a similar myth. We have an idea that any guy would want this, women throwing themselves at men and forcing sex, which makes it hard for male rape victims to be believed, too. When I saw that similarity for both women and men I was surprised.

So what surprised me when I started thinking about this were some things that were similar, like female and male rape victims both being disbelieved because so many people think they wanted the sex. And also that female dommes are still ultimately sex objects, framed through a male gaze that serves men.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on March 12, 2019, in sex and sexuality, violence against women and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 27 Comments.

  1. Males are usually always considered to be the more dominant gender. Women are the submissive. Yes, some men do wish to be the submissive but I feel as though the majority of the men want to be the dominant. Society has impacted this because men are expected to initiate and take charge of things. Males are the alpha of the home and usually the bed. They guide the way and the females follow their lead. Women are seen as being more delicate and are listeners. They are expected to follow whatever they are told to do. There are lots of ways dominance can be asserted into the sexual life of the two. One is through BDSM, which can use bondage and other means of dominating your partner. This is mostly done by the male to the female to try and please her and get her under his control. 

  2. Women now a days I believe want to be more dominant when it comes to consensual sex and I believe this is because they want to prove to men in a way they are just as controlling when it comes to sex as it does with everything else going on in the world. Women believe that men try and control everything and that women have no will or power over what they do and only men can control what they do. Women have recently been pictured as being able to do everything a man can do if not more in recent years and because of this men believe they are very empowering but also with this being said they have also been trying to be more of the dominant one when it comes to sex. They have been the ones who have been wanting to be on top of the man and this is a way to show dominance in their relationship.

  3. As a women I can relate to that 41% of women who think that being mildly dominated during sexual interactions is pleasing. In sexual relationships women want to feel like their partner is strong and can take control but also not in an extremely abusive way. However, everything should be voluntary and both partners should be in agreement at all times so things don’t take a different unpleasing perspective because moods change and one day something your partner liked before can become unpleasing and make them upset if they’re forced to do something. One thing I have never experienced is witnessing a men trying to be dominated by a women. What I’ve been told by men is that when they’re involved in sexual relationships they like to feel manly and like to be in control but I’ve never heard them say they want women to take over. However, I’m sure that my sample size is much smaller and you can’t get accurate data from that. I will say that everything is good in moderations regardless of gender in my opinion.

  4. Interesting information and data based the sampling of men and women from your classes. It was not surprising that men and women had an opposite interest level when posed with the question whether women like to be dominated. I would agree that society ‘s view of sexual domination suggests as was pointed out that males see this as more of a fantasy and they view the dominatrix as a sex object. Women have historically seduced even the most powerful men, to control and dominate them, but men are willing participates. On the other hand, men are typically bigger and stronger than their sexual partner and rough sex for the women might not necessarily be intended by the man. That said, some women and men may enjoy a more dominate sexual partner than others. Society does perpetuate the man in the dominate role over the women which becomes problematic for men who feel unable to live up to the expectation.

  5. The blog, Dominatrix: Worshipped and Objectified, revolves around the topic of sex and dominance. Do women and men like to be dominated in sex? It tunes out women and men both like to be dominated in sex. However, even if a woman is dominating a man while having sex, it is still being gendered. This also brings the topic of why men and women are sometimes disbelieved when they are actually raped. Since a woman likes to be submissive during sex then it’s harder to believe if she is ever rapped. The same thing goes for men. Because men are portrayed as always being up for sex, the chances someone will believe they are actually raped are lowered. This is an interesting topic. Even if men and women like to be submissive during sex, this should not have any effect on whether they are rapped or not. I mean, just because someone likes rough sex does not mean they always want sex and sex just with anyone.

  6. That picture you have on this post really brings home to what dominatrix or female dominance often is or seems to be, which shows why it’s gendered like I said. You know what’s also unique about female dominance and also why I feel it’s so gendered and about a woman’s sexual power than anything about ravaging. I’ve noticed from female dominance and what can be female sexual dominance or a thing is the dominatrix does a lot of teasing. Where it’s her clothing or not being completely nude and teasing the male sub and having her beg for more. Or uses props or does things that gets the man ultra turned on either has sex with the guy but stops just before he orgasms or doesn’t allow him to orgasm. And she holds off and tells him he won’t until she orgasms or him to do everything she wants him to do whether it’s gross stuff or him being a sissy or humiliating him, whatever. Or she stops just before he orgasms and continually does that and that’s apparently dominance, like I said the mental stuff. Or even yet she will please and stimulate the dude whether bj, handjob or other ways, and does everything to get her feeling good and so horny, even rubbing her vagina on on his dick or straddling him, but doesn’t have sex with him.

    You see how much seems kind of patriarchal relation though? Like it’s supposed dominance, but this power and dominance is the age old sexual power being used by the woman. Withhold of sex? Teasing? Like I don’t believe this is done with male dominance. There might be teasing, but still the dude generally ravages the woman, yet that doesn’t seem to happen with a dominatrix like I said. I’ve seen dudes say, well some dominatrix use a dildo or strap on, on the guy. But if you think about that, even though that’s something rough and a physical domination. Isn’t that also gendered if you think about it? To me it says a woman can not dominate via just intercourse, she has to either use her sexual powers (her seduction, tease and such) to mind control the guy to submit him or she has to mimmick a dude and to penetrate a man, because even though it’s a woman. The mighty phallus is true dominance, so anything less even though not true and because it reminds such of a woman is not dominance.

    I’m curious if that’s the reason to sexism with rape laws. And I don’t know if it’s simply because society sees men as not vulnerable and women are insatiable. But I think things were changed in america but many countries in the world even in the uk, don’t see it possible for a woman to rape a man or consider it that. And in the uk, it’s only sexual assault if a woman has sex with a man drugged or unconscious and not able to consent or forced on him. And it’s because the basis of rape in the uk is penetration and specifically a penis penetrating an orifice. Therefore, stupid semantics means that if a woman has forced non consensual sex with a man, he can’t be raped because he’s not penetrated. Physical trauma is not necessary for rape to be horrible as it’s the mental trauma that is the worse and longest effect emotionally. But I think it’s seen as more brutal, though a man can be physical hurt from a woman forcing sex on a man. This underestimating doesn’t just hurt women, but hurts men as it over estimates men as being invincible. just because of some perceived (false perception) or men not able to be harmed or vulnerable just because they have a dick.

    • Yeah I was thinking about the picture I used in how unsexy he looks compared to the dominatrix who is having power over him.

      I find reply was confusing and they seem to vary from place to place. In some places it can be called rape even if no penis is involved, and others not. And maybe it is because we think of men is being dominant that the penis is key? Or maybe it has to do with old laws such that the woman’s “purity” was so important which may stem from when they used to buy and sell women and virginity came at a higher price.

      Thanks for all of your interesting ideas Bob!

  7. “After searching my files I found a sample of my students, 83 women and 63 men who are not gay/lesbian (because I wanted a sample of people who have sex cross-sexually). I had wondered what my male students believed about women and what women felt, themselves:”

    How was the question phased and was there context or a definition of “being dominated”? I would think “Do you like your partner to take control or be assertive in the bed room?” vs “Do you like to be dominated by your partner in the bed room?” would get very different responses. When does taking control or being assertive turn into dominating?

    • Good question.

      I have a list of bedroom activities and at the very top I put:

      How appealing do you find these activities in REAL LIFE not fantasy?

      7. BDSM (bondage/dominance/sadism/masochism)/you are dominant?
      8. BDSM (bondage/dominance/sadism/masochism)/you are submissive?

      And we had discussed in class what sadism and masochism meant because a lot of the students didn’t know. Just explaining what BDSM stands for.

      And interestingly the responses I got were pretty similar to the survey of thousands of adults in Montreal, although that study was asking about fantasy.

    • Interesting and yeah I could see more women they like their partner taking control and being assertive in bed, which I feel is dominance for the person in control if aggressive and with such attitude. Like those are one in the same, but some can see differently or mean different things. A woman can like that stuff with a man in control but not see him as dominant though because she sees the bdsm stuff as dominance, but not the man in control as dominant. There’s “vanilla sex” dominance and bdsm dominance, but still dominance, just in different ways.

      I think taking control and being assertive becomes dominance is when it’s rough sex, like a dude pounding a woman hard from behind while lightly pulling her hair or spanking her ass. It seems a lot of women like that, and being submissive like that, so in that sense more would probably say that want that if that’s what was brought up as dominance compared specifically bdsm stuff. I think women and men voting might’ve often perceived dominance meant in a kinky, bdsm way and well not many into that therefore, saying no to submission. It’s interesting though and to see what women’s votes would have been if asked question about them being ravaged or them dominated not in the bdsm way but rough sex way. I feel more than half probably would’ve said yes with the former compared to the latter, which wasn’t as high seeing from the results shown on this blog post. What do you think Georgia?

      • I do have a question about rough sex somewhere. And that sounds like what you are describing. I have to go find the data but my memory is that women were much less interested in that than men thought they would be. Like pretty low interest.

  8. I’m that’s good. I noticed the clip wasn’t shown of tag body spray so people can see the visual example. But yes I like this and it is interesting how we think “ oh there is female dominance and that we have the reverse of it”.

    The reality is that female dominance is very gendered because the dominance often and power is based on female sexual power with seduction that controls the man, not generally from her roughing him up just from sexual intercourse. If there’s roughing up stuff it’s bdsm related, whether hitting the dude, but dominatrix stuff is rarely go all “cave woman on the guy” be forceful and rough, brutal intercourse. Yet interesting enough, even with mind control on the woman. Almost all male sexual dominance turns to the woman being ravage and fucked in a rough manner does it not? Yes it’s easier for men to do so because of size and strength and obviously women can’t generally do that or to sams level but a woman can still forcibly push a man back and duck him hard and be ultra agressive. But dommes don’t seem to do that which makes me wonder if it’s actual female dominance or “playing at female dominance” because it turns men on and to male gaze like you said. And if this is such women’s sub conscious to still feel this is the way to do things.

    • I debated showing the video and was worried about romanticizing rape, so didn’t. You can find it in the comments on “9 PM curfew for toxic masculinity” if you want. A compromise of sorts.

      • True. What did you think of the video? It did seem to play into the story that women are insatiable and it’s cute and sexy when women get really sexually, forcibly aggressive toward a man. You see the dude freaked out in the beginning or confused and startled from the women’s aggression. But then you see him smiling at very end of clip when a bunch of the (beautiful) women were all lying on top of him. We sure know we wouldn’t give that a pass or find that cute if it was the reverse. I understand how it’s scarier for men being aggressive of course because a majority of rapes are committed by men and then a man from strength and size standpoint is a much greater physical threat to a woman than vice versa. But interesting the complete opposite feelings each provoke. A sexually aggressive man is threatening whereas, women are harmless so it’s just cute sexy or harmless if women are being sexually forceful

      • Yeah I think that’s true in terms of mainstream media. But a lot of porn makes women seem like they’re afraid and then they are loving being raped at the end. At least that’s what I hear.

      • woman can still forcibly push a man back and duck him hard ”

        Don’t you just love auto correct? I know it’s because of censorship or not correcting a work to slang or profanity, but I thought I changed it only to send it out that way. I thought the sex I was brining up was already kinky, but damn auto correct is a freak and involves ducks in the mix for some reason. I’m trying to bring up regular submission and dominance sex and auto correct wants bestiality in the mix apparently. You think it’s fun when a woman f*cks you hard, but it’s nothing until she ducks you hard…..

      • Ha ha! The miracle of modern technology. When I say porn it often comes out corn. 🙃

  9. I’d like to interview these 45% of women who supposedly are not interested in a submissive sexual relationship. Here’s my prediction… these women, 95% are out at the bar or the dance club never approaching a man, but waiting for a man to approach them. They wait for the man to ask for the first date. On the dates they wait for the man to make the first move. Once they get in the bedroom and sexual relations commence, they lay there while the man carries out all the mechanics of the act.

    In today’s hyper feminist college environment, what self respecting woman wants to admit wanting to be submissive? But you break the question down into its component behaviors and see if women are actually involved in submissive relationships, then you might find out something different. Their entire mating ritual is characterized by submission.

    I only remember one female who approached me first sexually… a crazy girl in the 8th grade who may have been trolling me. And I only remember one woman who “f*cked me hard”. Memorable because of how unusual it was. If the human race waited for female sexual dominance, I think it would die out.

    And yeah, fair point about the dominatrix. 95% of these women are getting paid for it, right? They are bending to the power of male cash.

  10. I think the exact opposite survey would be interesting.

    • You know, I do have the data for that but I’d have to look around for it. I remembered that I wrote up my analysis for a chapter in a book I’m working on “What women want and what men think they do“ which is actually still in draft. So I only have a record of that side of it without looking around for the original data – which I have stacks of. Interestingly, my data fit fairly closely to a survey of thousands of Montreal adults. That sample found just under half of men also had fantasies of being dominated. But I can’t tell you without finding the original data what the sample of my women thought men wanted. I can tell you that women tended to be much more accurate in predicting what men want but I think that particular question is trickier and I can’t remember what the women said.

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