A few months ago I did a guest blog/interview with Quinn of On Queer Street on femininity, strap on sex and the pervasive equation that cock = power. Here it is, including her glowing introduction (cue my reddened cheeks). Have a read and do stop by her site and check out her other work.
The wonderful Violet Fawkes blogs at Fire & Honey, where she posts brilliantly hot erotica and gorgeous erotic photography and uses her writing to explore thoughts on FemDom, long-distance D/s relationships and sex-positive feminism. She also writes beautiful poetry, and mixes all of that with posts about wonderful words than can enhance erotic writing. Her tweets at @fireandhoney about the power of strap-on sex caught my eye, and I really enjoyed discussing the subject with her. In fact, I found the discussion so fascinating that I asked her if she would write a guest blog for me on the female power and femininity that comes with male power symbols. I was delighted that she said yes, and I am happy to present her answers to my questions…
The equation penis = power isn’t one I would agree with, but do you find that power comes from wielding a penis in the form of a strap-on?
I wouldn’t agree with that statement as empirically true, however, I think that we absolutely operate within a culture that implies strength, power and dominance in cisgendered men, and more reductively, in the penis, literally and symbolically. By wearing a strap on, by physically adopting and appropriating that symbol, I do, personally, and I recognize this is not necessarily universally true, feel a particular surge of power. I find that to be a conflicting sensation and a challenge, intellectually, because I don’t feel it should be that way, yet it is. It’s exhilarating but it’s also representative of how systemic that symbolism is and how much I have internalized it without thought or purpose. It’s a strange thing to be made aware of bias, and even stranger when that disagreeable bias is something you can suddenly use to your advantage. It becomes an intellectual and ethical conundrum for me; the battle between rational thought and irrational desire.
What appeals to you about strap-on play, or using other male power symbols in your sex life?
I don’t require male symbols of power to feel Dominant or exert Dominance with a partner, but strap-on play is an obvious trope of FemDom and it makes sense for me on two levels: functionally and psychologically. From a functional point of view, it is powerful and exciting to become the active penetrator vs the more passive penetrated. Again, the implication of power leans towards the male, structurally, but as any act of sex or dominance, it’s all in the intention. It’s possible to be the active (read: empowered) penis wielder and still fuck your partner from a place of love, tenderness, pleasure or even service. However, the default psychological understanding of a woman with a cock strapped to her pelvis is that she is taking control of that act and that situation in the same way that we have been conditioned to see men as continuously, innately, having that control because we are taught to see men as active and women as passive. She may have always been in control, but the cock does seem to inevitably amp up the clarity that she is now completely empowered to do, take, have, own, control, etc. whereas without that cock, her dominance requires specific context and prior knowledge to be understood. Again, I find it conflicting that the wearing of a phallus seems to give me more license to express the desire to take ownership of a more active role. My personal journey into Dominance has been circuitous and challenging, as I think it is for many women. There are so many mixed messages: Be strong – but not too strong! Ask for what you want, but don’t really expect to get it! Be assertive, but not masculine. It can be very hard to know where to start. Layer onto that the propensity for labels and issues of exclusion by labels within the BDSM community at large, and it can be absolutely daunting to proclaim an identity, to say that you identify as a Dominant female. With labels come expected tropes and it’s necessary to pick and choose what makes sense to you as an individual. Certainly not all Dommes prescribe to the latex cat-suit wearing, whip wielding image that we may have come to expect. These tropes are often demonstrations of male power symbols re-interpreted for the dominant woman; armour, weapons, aggressive voice and physical stance, etc. and are often borne of male fantasy, i.e.: the only way many men can imagine a woman being powerful is if she’s in some way impersonating a man. Other women dominate without any replication of typical male symbols at all. How one enacts their dominance is very personal and certainly not wholly dependent on appropriating male power symbols, but it is common and was definitely a starting point for me.
Do you feel more dominant and powerful when wearing a strap-on than in pretty lacy lingerie? Do you think this is to do with playing with gender roles?
This is a complex question and I feel like I may have a few, possibly conflicting answers, because this is such nuanced territory. To start I’d say that I don’t actually feel I “play with gender roles”. I identify straight and cis and to my knowledge all of my male partners have also identified as such. I have never engaged in play that was purposefully gender exploratory, and I don’t consider strap-on sex with a straight cis man to fall into that territory. In fact, other than the awareness of systemic notions of gender, I don’t tend to think of it much unless there is a need to define it. It’s less about the sexual politics of who is what and more that I am fulfilling one role and he another. The starting points of our genders are not the drivers, other than the default attraction in place. Oscar Wilde famously said “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power” and I absolutely agree. When it comes to wearing a strap-on do I feel more dominant? Yes. More powerful, no, not necessarily. As mentioned previously, the implied power status of the phallus is like instant, off the shelf, just-add-water dominance for me. It’s symbolically so potent that to tighten the harness and adjust the cock, hands on hips, at the ready, is to say: “I am here, I am in charge, and you are going to respond to me appropriately.” Yes, that is power. But if you set the comparison of lacy lingerie against that I would say I feel more powerful in lingerie because I know how to wield the power that lingerie imbues better than I know how to wield the power that comes from wearing a cock. As a straight, cis female in her mid-thirties, I have been aware of and practicing the power of “feminine wiles” for 25+ years. Early puberty meant I learned young what batting my eyelashes or showing a bit of cleavage, or dropping my voice to a slower huskier tone could and did do to my male peers. Popular culture absolutely supports this knowledge and fetishizes the woman who can and will use her brain and body to exert power and control over men. Add to that the known quantity of seductive lingerie and the typical straight male response to it and I am absolutely in my wheelhouse and I can use that power in ways that make me blush in hindsight. Stepping into a strap-on gives me a sense of dominance and with that dominance comes power, but I know less what to do with that power or how to use it effectively, because although it feels quite natural, it is not as practiced. Where things get really exciting is the combination of hyper-feminine lingerie with a strap-on. That’s a feast for the senses and a mind fuck for both parties.
Do you find that taking on more ‘male power’, despite you feeling feminine, results in your partner feeling less masculine?
If they’ve ever felt more feminine during our play, I have never been made aware of it or observed anything to make me think that. Ultimately my Dominance is not meant to be about becoming more masculine or feminizing a partner, it’s about the interaction and exchange of power outside of the typical gender binary. What I’m learning is that gender, or perceptions of gender, are concepts that are very much ingrained in us, in me, and are harder to escape, subvert or ignore than one might think.
Are there any other male power symbols or gender subversions that you play with in your dominance?
Gender, as mentioned, isn’t really the driver: I think it’s often presumed that FemDom women are pushing an agenda of female superiority or that the “sissification” of men is the goal. Certainly, that is true for some, but I out more thought into the role of Dominant and submissive (or Top and bottom) than I do in the gender of those roles. In power, these power dynamics I am in control because I am the Dominant, not because I am female. By this logic I could engage with a female submissive without disrupting the dynamic, but I have no experience with female subs. Beyond the strap-on I don’t adopt other male symbols, however, I have noticed that, whether it’s about presumed authenticity or my own lens on Dominance, I tend to move and use my body in a bolder, more masculine way: I take up more space, I walk taller, I assume more power positions. Again, this simply confirms how ingrained our impressions of gender can be, without considering what that actually says or if those impressions are accurate, constructive, or aligned with our values.
And let’s end on a big one! You’ve said in a Twitter discussion that one of the challenges you find in dominating with a strap-on is that it seems to take a male symbol to make you “more” a woman. Why do you find this challenging, and how does this affect your play?
I find it empowering, yet challenging, because I’m frustrated that it seems to take a male symbol to impart the confidence I need to feel fully female. There’s something about the power and confidence that the strap-on imbues that allows me to disregard the usual female insecurities that we have been force fed. Without a cylinder of silicone dangling from my crotch I am likely, at some point in play, even as the Domme, to think about how I didn’t shave my legs that day or how my stomach jiggles, or that my breasts aren’t pert like they used to be. But with that dick in hand I don’t think those destructive thoughts. Instead I feel present and ready for anything, powerful, like a warrior goddess, divine and grounded in my body. I feel empowered, not limited, by my curves. The “flaws” of my body become hard earned battle scars. I feel like I am vibrating with feminine energy. That is the challenge: that until I have connected to that male imagery and symbolism, that portal of essential womanliness doesn’t open.