Dominant and Submissive Dynamics

Shaking up traditional power and gender roles

Issue #29

By Vivienne Arkell

50 Shades of Grey definitely opened Pandora’s box by exposing us to the kink meaning for the terms ‘Dom’ and ‘sub’. Yet stereotypically, whether in steamy romance novels or Tarzan movies, the script has long been written: males dominate, females submit. Why should women and men stay stuck in these learned behavior patterns?

Masculine/feminine roles regarding sexual behavior have persisted for eons. Only recently have people begun to shake off gender-specific rules and challenge the existing assumptions and myths. In a study posted on the Association for Psychological Science website, Terri Conley and her team show that social factors are often more of an influencer rather than biologic factors. “When stereotypes based on inaccurate information are left unquestioned, they will continue to impact people’s perceptions. For example, the assumption that men think about sex so much more than women could potentially contribute to the stereotype that men are more sexual, while women are more prudish,” states Conley.

Societal pressure, libido and sexual freedom are also examined in depth in the book Sex at Dawn by Ryan and Jetha. Unfortunately, the power dynamics in a typically male dominated society often keep women from becoming confident enough to satisfy their own sexual needs and desires.

In a study of gendered-based power and its effects on heterosexual relationships, published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles, Dr. Lisa Rosenthal and colleagues explain:

Our findings suggest that for both women and men, the more they endorse traditional power hierarchies in society, the more they believe that men should dominate sexually, the lower […] confidence in sexual situations they have… Further, we found that the more women associated sex with submissiveness, the more they reported submissive sexual behavior themselves, the less sexual arousal they reported.

Reporting about the biology of male dominance, Leon Selzer PhD, writing in Psychology today, quotes authors Ogas and Gaddam from their study on human desire: “Both males and females in several mammal species appear to possess both sexual dominance and sexual submission circuitry,” noting further that “both types of circuits are wired to the pleasure centers of the brain.”

Must we perpetuate the idea that women don’t lead, even in the bedroom? Why should the male always take the position of power and dominance in the equation of masculine/feminine sexual energy, pursuer/receiver or active/passive desire?

It’s time to shift the power dynamic. Take charge of how you want to have sex. Start being the goddess who knows how she’d like to be pleased instead of just accepting the role of the pleaser. The more empowered and embodied you feel, the more you’ll see how rewarding sex is between equals.

It’s time for women to share some control and have fun being the instigator. Don’t let old gender stereotypes persuade you otherwise. Break the rules about roles!

To learn more about this book and other recommendations, visit the bookshop.


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