Submissive in Seattle

Vocabulary

Vocabulary

Recently I became a moderator for a new subreddit called /r/FemdomCommunity. (A subreddit being sort of like a forum with in a larger forum on the website Reddit, in case you didn’t already know.)

I volunteered for the gig, because I am interested in seeing the space evolve into a helpful place with good well-reasoned advice on how to make F/m (or F/f or F/whatever) relationships work in the real world.

*Submissive in Seattle does not endorse cruelty to animals, only Submissives.

*Submissive in Seattle does not endorse cruelty to animals, only Submissives.

Now there is a particular kink frequently associated with F/m dynamics that I think I have completely avoided blogging about since I started  Submissive in Seattle. I haven’t talked about it because last time I did the argument lasted all week, and furthermore I don’t want it to seem like I’ve got an axe to grind with it. It’s just not my kink and while I don’t find it particularly noxious, I do think that practiced certain ways it is troublesome.

I’ve successfully avoided talking about Forced Feminisation for over a year now, but when new-ish domme posted asking about it and the apparent contradiction between treating your female partner with adoration, and being humiliated by being made to dress and act in a feminine manner I gave my two cents and linked to a couple of informative posts on the matter. I might have just left after that, but I stuck around and kept discussing it, until I was slightly frustrated.

The thing is that there are different ways of practicing this kink but both are referred to using the same name, and often talked about using the same vocabulary. It seems that Forced-Feminisation-as-humiliation is one of the more frequently portrayed kinks associated with Femdom™, and yet whenever I’ve been privy to a discussion about it people come out of the woodwork who practice Forced-Feminisation-as-goddess-worship/self-empowerment/gender-play/whatever. 

Which is fine and wouldn’t bother me one bit except both parties call it Forced Fem, and thus if one tries to point out that Forced-Feminisation-as-humiliation is pretty damn misogynistic, the folks who do their sort of “enforced cross-dressing where both parties generally enjoy it and it’s a totally positive thing but ECWBPGEIAIATPT  is a too big of an acronym and it doesn’t spell anything anyways so we’ll just call what it is that we do Forced-Fem” get their collective knickers in a twist and react like you are trying to be the kink police and stop them from having their fun. Which of course is not what I want.

For one thing, I don’t have the uniform.

Vocabulary problems are common in BDSM it seems. Everyone is very attached to their right to use any given word to mean whatever they intend it to mean. It makes communication difficult, which is problematic when communication is such an important part of BDSM.

I know I usually try and clarify if I know that something I’m saying is likely to be misinterpreted. And it just makes sense to me to adapt your language when you know people are using the same term to mean different things. For example, if I were say really turned on by castration play, and fantasized about it, wanted to talk about it, and then found out that there were people out there using the phrase “castration-play” to mean actually and permanently removing ones testicles for a one-time only sexual high, You can be damn sure that I would find a new way to refer to my less harmful fantasy.

Which is why I’m puzzled when we live in a world where when asked “what they would do if they woke up tomorrow as the opposite gender” the majority of young boys respond that they’d kill themselves (I read an article on this, and can’t find the fucking link, send it to me and I’ll be so grateful.) When misogyny is so very deeply ingrained, why would anyone  continue to use the same term for their innocuous kink as something that is so obviously hateful of women and femininity?

I know you can’t make shitty people stop using your words, but you can always start using new ones. Can’t you?

19 thoughts on “Vocabulary

  1. gingernic

    Okay, two questions. First: where do you even find a picture to fit F/leopard? I don’t know whether to be disturbed or impressed.

    Second, the relevant question: You say people practice “Forced-Feminisation-as-goddess-worship/self-empowerment/gender-play/whatever.” What does that look like? It’s the “forced” part that screws with me. I’ve go no problem with gender-bending but forced fem is not that. The idea seems to be that we have to pretend that no, really, he doesn’t want this at all, bad domme no cookie &c. (and I want my cookie.) It confuses me even more when an eloquent, educated, well-adjusted charming feminist with whom I’m discussing play says it’s his biggest kink. I feel as though I’m missing some way in which it can be neither misogynistic nor rapey, but I can’t seem to get there.

    1. Peroxide

      First: where do you even find a picture to fit F/leopard?

      You should be disturbed, the internet is a very dark place and it just keeps going, all the way down.

      Second, the relevant question: You say people practice “Forced-Feminisation-as-goddess-worship/self-empowerment/gender-play/whatever.” What does that look like?

      That’s sort of my point, Forced just isn’t the right word. It seems to me, that if both parties are totally into it and “force” and humiliation play no part in it, then a better term might be enforced cross-dressing.

      As in” They both like it, but the dominant finds it hot, so she makes a rule of it happening on a regular basis. Which would be totally cool.

      But if that is your thing, why would you keep using a term that refers to a more misogynistic or rapey variation on the theme? And why would you respond to a question about how the humiliating and misogynistic variation of your kink works?

  2. lipstickandligature

    It’s really great that you’re talking about this because there is so much miscommunication about what kink actually looks like in real relationships in comparison to porn tropes. I think I said once (possibly on Tumblr) that I didn’t find forced fem at all attractive and found it awful and misogynistic because everything I’ve seen of it is awful but the same thing happened; someone emailed me and said I didn’t understand it and actually he really liked wearing women’s underwear because he felt the experience to be beautiful and sensuous – something which is great.

    So, YAY for you talking about this as it’s just another fallacy that can be dispelled. I think people don’t bother to change labels because it’s just easier to stick with what they have. People always want the easier option in general and so, using the term becomes less of an umbrella reference and more of a giant marquee under which everyone is standing; it is crowded and confusing and frustrating.

    The same can be said for the label of dominant/submissive too, can’t it? I know we’ve spoken before about how submissive is perhaps a misnomer for many men because they are actively submitting within their relationships and not actually being forced against their will.

    People will always imbue language with their own meanings right down to the simple stuff; If 5 people all think of the colour blue then it’s highly likely that most of them are going to be thinking of a slightly different shade.

    1. Peroxide

      This is certainly not the only case in the BDSM/kink spectrum where a range of acts (or acts/motivation combinations) are being referred to with a blanket term, and we’ve talked about how difficult discussing roles can be as well when so many people of varying motive are using titles and role descriptors interchangeably.

      So it falls to context to guide discussions, and I suppose that annoys me further, because the OP in the discussion that inspired this post was pretty clearly asking about “forced-feminisation-as-humiliation” and was answered mainly by practitioners of the other sort of “forced” fem.

  3. A woman

    Great post! The distinction you draw makes total sense. To be clear, the rest of my comment will focus on the merits of the forced-feminization-as-humiliation variety.

    Since the topic is vocabulary, I’d like to suggest that the word ‘misogyny’ is overused. Misogyny means hatred of women. In my mind, hatred does not at all accurately capture the attitudes behind sexual discrimination, sexual objectification, or the denigration of women. Sexism isn’t about disliking women, it’s about assuming their inferiority. (This is a side note, and certainly not something that just you do; misogyny is so universally collapsed into sexism that I have to wonder whether the word doesn’t have a meaning I’m unaware of – can it mean ‘prejudice against’ as well as ‘hatred of’ women?)

    In any case, sexism is bad. Kinking on sexism … that’s less clear to me. Power differentials are bad. But I kink on them, and I really don’t know whether that is ‘okay’. Why is finding men in heels hot any worse than men in shackles? Rape is bad. Violence is bad. Exaggerated senses of entitlement are bad. Slavery is bad. Humiliation is bad. Kinking on any of these? I really don’t know. Lots of aspects of BDSM involve eroticizing concepts that really aren’t very pretty.

    (Another side note: actually, that’s not limited to BDSM at all!)

    The link to Bitchy Jones’s post was interesting. In making her point that forced fem is not the same as race play, she seems to imply that it would only be ‘okay’ for women to kink on forced fem, because women are the oppressed entity (minority) outside of the bedroom. I’m not clear on if she thinks it is fine for men to kink on dominance, especially dominance over a female sex slave in, say, a French Maid outfit, except in the service of female sexual fulfillment.

    I think it’s undeniable that forced feminization (as humiliation) REFLECTS a culture saturated by gender stereotypes. The question to me is whether it PERPETUATES that culture of oppression, or if awareness is enough to justify our sexual enjoyment.

    1. Peroxide

      Indeed, perhaps sexism would be a more accurate word choice.

      It is pretty clear that for the act of wearing women’s clothes to be humiliating, one needs to have some ingrained sense that being feminine is shameful. Culturally that’s understandable, we’re taught that early on and it takes more than a little rational thought to dispel social lessons.

      If people want to play with that, I think that’s perfectly fine, but I also think that it needs to be acknowledged and talked about.

      If forced-fem-fans were stepping up and saying “I know logically that there is nothing shameful about this act, but due to cultural conditioning I find it humiliating nonetheless, and I enjoy being made to feel that way in certain contexts.” I’d take them at their word.

      It is the refusal to even talk about the fact that it clearly reflects a culture saturated by gender stereotypes, that suggests to me that it probably is perpetuating oppression.

  4. Sonjafly

    I found this post interesting for a few reasons (and I refer to this in the humiliation context, as opposed to the female worship context, here):

    – I hadn’t actually detected a strong correlation between it and F/m. I guess that’s good.

    – I hadn’t ever thought of it as being offensive to women. In the few stories I have read about it, it just seemed like another thing that would be humiliating. I didn’t really put much thought into it, though.

    – I’m a female sub, and I would have a really hard time with a Dom having me dress in a really feminine manner. It’s just not me. I’ve found female stereotypes annoying and not descriptive of me, so I have tried to avoid fitting in to them altogether. I’d be embarrassed to do something I’d avoided for so long. It’s probably not the same thing as the assumed male embarrassment about it, but it’s interesting that it could, in the right case, be used for females as well as males. Does that mean I’ve internalized the male ideals that society projects? Possibly, but I think it’s more that I want to distance myself from the female stereotypes that I feel don’t describe me.

    1. Peroxide

      The correlation shows up frequently in porn, and I see forced-fem-as-humilation often mentioned in Malesub personal ads, and in “punishment suggestion” type posts that seem intended more for masturbation purposes than actual behavior correction advice.

      It appears more childish than offensive until you realize that women are not expected to feel ashamed if they wear traditionally masculine garments. Indeed, putting on a suit is seen as making a woman more powerful and dominant.

      What you suggest could be true for yourself and others as well, I’ve seen it suggested somewhere that a dominant could use forced-fem on a tomboy femsub to much the same effect if the sub had a strong disinclination to feminine clothing.

  5. Steve

    When I was small and I would complain to my parents “Its not fair” My parents would say to me (and I say it to my own children) “There’s no such thing as fairness and you shouldnt expect it”

    Maybe what I should have wailed was ” its not fair / equitable/ just / proportionate etc” They knew what I meant just as my children do now. Life was too short to ponder the precise word that reflected each particular situation. “A rose by any other name”

    I cross dress as part of sex play. I put the goddess worship / humiliation /mysogyny question to my wife. She said “look – if you enjoyed dressing as a clown or dressing as a chimpanzee then bring it on. I have my own tastes which you indulge because you know it gives me pleasure. Its the same when I order you into womens clothes. I know it gives you pleasure”

    Finding a vocabulary that we all agreed on would take forever , by which time the use of the language would have moved on . I agree that it does help if we are all on the same page, but for heavens sake we are talking about “Fun” however we define that. Chill.

    1. Peroxide

      Dude I’m chill. I say do what you do for whatever reason you do it. But be honest if you’re going to discuss it.

      If you don’t know why you do what you do, that’s fine.

      If you find cross-dressing shameful and exciting, that’s fine too, but acknowledge that the shame probably comes from some latent culturally induced sexism.

      Or maybe you just like frilly clothes, and that’s peachy keen too, but if you kink on cross dressing and would do so without the insistence of a dominant partner, then consider that questions posed aboutForced Feminisation, are probably not directed at your kink.

  6. Unrepentant

    One of the issues with distinguishing between the two is that there is not a clear line between them. Cultural conditioning can be very hard to overcome, and what about the guy who kinks on being made to dress like a woman but doesn’t understand why he likes it so much? Maybe there is a visceral element of humiliation in it for him that he fetishizes even though he’s aware that it’s being derived from internalized cultural conditioning.. but he can’t help being turned on by it anyway. I don’t think he’s bad for wanting to do something that turns him on that much, especially as long as everyone involved is aware of the misogynistic connotations and takes care not to let it affect their everyday life.

    People play with potentially troublesome themes all the time, like rape or incest or racism, and there’s nothing wrong with any of it, as long as it’s all done mindfully. Hell, we all know it’s “wrong” to enjoy hurting people, but we also know that it’s ok in certain contexts and with consent, etc.

    Dividing forced fem into different camps makes sense in some ways, but It also seems like a pretty fuzzy distinction to me. For example, in the beginning of my relationship with an ex, we played around with forced feminization, and he really got off on it. On the surface it looked a lot like the humiliation type of feminization, and if you had asked him he probably would have said that was part of the appeal. In the end though, it turned out that the forced feminization was his way of being able to start exploring alternate gender expressions, and it ultimately led to him figuring out that he was transexual. But when we started playing with feminization in the beginning he definitely wanted to be “forced” into it (and still kinks on being forced to be ultra girly or “dollified”, even though she’s been living as a woman for years now).. that’s the other thing with the “forced” part – a lot of people, even those who don’t find it humiliating per se, want to feel like it’s happening against their will, which I suspect is the biggest reason non-misogynistic folks still use “forced fem” instead of finding a new phrase.

    For the record though, I like the phrase “enforced feminization”.

    1. Peroxide

      Force as kink is a funny animal I know. I suspect the vast majority of people playing with “forced” anything are dealing more with a “little push” than what would in a different context constitute actual force.

      Enforced, is a term I’m taking a liking to as well, I’ll probably be using it more in the future when I need to discuss things where both partners like an activity, but the sub requires a push to go through with or stick to it.

      Playing with troublesome themes is acceptable, discussing them like they are not troublesome or downplaying the possibility that there is some unsavory cultural baggage making something taboo and exciting is not acceptable, it’s dishonest.

      In the case of your partner (and I hope I’m not crossing a line discussing them, I don’t know the particulars, but you brought them up.) It sounds like there was some internalized sexism that made it exciting, that made him need the extra push of “force” to do that sort of play.

      It sounds wonderful that that your play allowed your ex to explore a part of themselves they couldn’t before, that sounds empowering and uplifting. It also doesn’t sound like the really unpleasantly sexist fantasies that are often labeled forced fem.

  7. Dumb Domme

    Great post, Peroxide, and a great discussion too.

    Personally, I don’t like “forced feminization” as a term and it’s not something I’m into. But, as others have said, if it turns someone on and it’s not hurting anyone, then go forth and fem-on.

    But in general, I wish we could just lump forced feminization in with other sorts of humiliation play and call it just that — humiliation play.

    I realize that on the surface, that sounds worse.

    But I think it’s better. As a label, “humiliation play” puts the emphasis on the humiliation rather than on the way in which that humiliation takes shape. It makes the means of humiliation individual and personal — it doesn’t automatically assume that something already is humiliating. So, maybe dressing up as a woman is humiliating to you. Maybe pretending to be an astronaut is humiliating to you. Great. But calling it “humiliation play” instead of forced fem or forced astronautization doesn’t assume that being feminine or being an astronaut is automatically humiliating to everyone.

    Actually, forced astronautization sounds like fun… off to find a space suit….

    1. Peroxide

      I think that is an elegant solution to a tricky issue with the Kinky lexicon. While humiliation play, sounds pretty harsh from the outside it does cover such a wide spectrum of play. I know like a bit of it, such as being made to blush like a fool, but shy away from the really dramatic stuff.

      I feel like force Astronautization (Forced Astronaulization?) would almost count as bondage, mummification type play as well, because of the layers to a space suit. Which just goes to show how difficult these things are to categorize.

  8. maymay

    Good luck with the volunteer gig, Peroxide.

    Unrelated to feminization, I’m wondering if you’re willing to link to some of my FetLife tools, from your subreddit community. Reason I’m asking is twofold:

    My previous postings were censored from Reddit. They were removed. Yes, removed. From Reddit, the site where it’s a challenge to get goat porn censored. So, I’m curious what the shit removing my posts from the BDSM subreddit is about.
    if you’re really interested in seeing the space evolve into a helpful place with good well-reasoned advice, then linking to some of my FetLife tools like the FetLife Alleged Abusers Database Engine seems an obvious thing to do.

    I’d do this myself but Reddit is currently “down for scheduled maintenance,” so I’m asking this as a favor from you instead. Thanks.

      1. maymay

        Thanks. Bluntly, I’ve no real interest in participating in Reddit communities about BDSM and I’m not likely to check back or remember to do this. I have a lot of things on my plate. I’m simply invested (for obvious reasons) in tracking down the source of any censorship I experience. That’s why I asked if you’d be willing to do so in my stead and, again, I appreciate your willingness to do exactly that. 🙂

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