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D/s burnout, postscript: An aside about gender

You will note as you read the previous two posts that I have recorded people’s gender and d/s roles in their comments. That’s because years of sociological study of the scene have taught me that gender and BDSM roles overlap in some very complicated ways. As a mostly-dom woman who has mostly been in d/s relationships with people who were raised as men, I expected to see tales of d/s burnout coming disproportionately from cis men subs. I don’t have a large enough sample to back that up (and there are so few of them anyway that I would need a rather enormous sample to try to accumulate that). But the gendered dynamics of BDSM roles definitely seemed be working against cis men subs here in some pretty severe ways that would make them more likely to burn out.

(1) They’re working against their socially gendered roles in a serious uphill battle. There’s a lot of socialization they’re already fighting against to do submission at all because “everyone knows that masculinity means dominance.” Fighting a gendered battle with themselves and society may have made them slightly burnt out by the time they arrive in a relationship.

(2) Men in general have fewer friends in our society, which means that their support networks are already generally weaker than women’s. Cis men subs tend to be especially isolated, disconnected, and rare in our community with little social support from kink community either. Since one of the most common solutions for burnout prevention/cure was “kinky social support,” they tend to be in a pretty tough place.

(3) Fem doms and masc subs in general are rarer and have fewer opportunities to “practice.” They come to d/s relationships with less experience, and thus on average are less able to articulate their needs, wants, and desires. Having talked submission with women and men, I have been struck by how much more articulate the average cis woman submissive is at explaining her motivations for d/s than the average cis man submissive–and being able to clearly articulate motivations for d/s was something that showed up repeatedly in people’s comments about burnout.

(4) Being rarer also means that fem doms and masc subs may end up pushing themselves to stay in unsuitable relationships based on scarcity. Several people mentioned burnout in relation to the feeling that “this is the best you’re going to get, so deal with it”; but for fem doms and masc subs, that feeling is likely heightened by fewer opportunities, thus encouraging burnout.

(5) As a population, statistically speaking, cis men “subs” are largely actually switches. I talked to multiple switches who said they got burnt out when they only engaged in submission (without having a sub themselves), so cis men “subs” seem especially vulnerable to this particular brand of burnout.

(6) As I have reported before, subs in general have worse self-esteem than doms, but this difference is especially conspicuous and bleak among cis men subs. While self-esteem may not be directly tied to burnout, I suspect that it is indirectly tied to it through overall mental health, and a general sense of self-respect.

I thought about all of these factors (and especially the grim accumulation of them) as I looked at the relationship landscape around me. Lamenting my own recent break-up, I was a bit startled by how many fem dom friends I had to share my lamentations of having been broken up with by a cis man sub. In fact, I didn’t even meet anyone where the break up had gone in the other direction (woman breaking up with man), which was startling since, in general in vanilla society, women tend to break up with men much more than men break up with women (and women break up with each other most of all). Relationships dissolve for all sorts of reasons, but when I started considering the macro-level challenges here, I felt both better and worse all at the same time…

Other than increasing awareness, I have absolutely no idea how to fix these problems at the individual level. But I reiterate my call in my previous post for more kinkworld support groups; and in this case, I think a support group for masc subs is very much in order for a variety of reasons.