To The Moon, Alice!
Submissive Women in BDSM - 1950's Revisited?

An essay - By Kallen

Recently a student wrote a paper about the BDSM scene in Portland, Maine.  She visited the CUFS website, spoke with several CUFS committee members, and visited the Monday night Requiem play event at The Underground.  She couldn't help comparing the relationships she saw between female subs and their Masters to those between pre-liberation, 60's sitcom, June Cleaver housewives and their spouses.  The writer seemed to feel this made a statement about the sub/Dom relationships.  She identified service to a Master as more a going back to an earlier norm than a modern expression of kinky sexuality. 

What had she seen?  A woman walking a step behind her Master on a public street.  The same woman quietly making certain her Master had exactly what he wanted to eat and drink during an interview.  At another meeting, the woman sat at her Master's feet giving him a manicure while he spoke to the writer.  Another woman (me!) was less overtly submissive, but always deferred to her Master in speaking, and tried to arrange things first for his comfort & convenience before thinking of herself.

On the surface these things do look a lot like the behaviors we saw our grandmothers and mothers exhibit as a matter of course.  (For a younger generation, they may have only appeared on Nick-at-Night.)  But I would like to suggest that modern subs are less "June Cleaver-ish" than June was SLAVE-ISH. 

During the 40's, 50's and 60's, women were EXPECTED to put their men first at all costs.  The breadwinner must be cared for and coddled ... as payment for his clothing, housing & feeding the woman.  Her needs, never mind her desires, were secondary at best.  The culture said this was how it SHOULD be.  I'm sure that many of these relationships were founded on mutual respect and a willing division of labor, but certainly not most of them.  If you are raised to assume a role, and taught the role is the only one available to you, that is not consensual.  Neither the woman nor the man can behave out of love & respect if they are not conscious of what they are doing.  How can he recognize the sacrifice if it is taken for granted?  How can she be other than resentful, knowing HER "self" exists only as an accessory to another?

In a good BDSM relationship (and I'm not going to get into BAD ones here!) the Master/slave interaction is conscious, negotiated, viewed as a gift, and brings pleasure to both parties.  The sub's needs are actually right at the top of the list in this game.  That she WANTS to submit is the first step they took together.  HOW she submits is determined by both their desires.  Don't we all know Doms who prefer the sub to do all the talking for the couple, make all the minor decisions, leave him out of the minutia of living?  Others I've seen want their sub to be a living toy, without public voice.  But these have all been CHOSEN behaviors!

Like most people, I used to laugh at the idea of Samantha giving up her power for the love of a mortal.  I was amused by Lucy's fear of making Ricky mad.  I saw nothing out of place when Ralph shook his fist in Alice's face.  "One of these days, Alice ..."  Today, Trey Parker's "That's My Bush" has the President mimicking Ralph Cramden, but with the less euphemistic words, "One of these days ... I'm going to punch you in the face."  Parker understood what the old cultural icon really meant.  I hope I can convey the difference between BDSM and "real" slavery to the young writer in Portland.

Copyright 2001 by Kallen.  No reproduction without permission.

 

  Page Updated 08/27/05

 

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