Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Submissive Male Construct and Nice Guys

Have I mentioned that I absolutely loved the X Files? I still do actually and own all nine seasons on DVD. I even have a reproduction of the poster from Fox Mulder’s basement office, you know the “I Want to Believe” one which I have framed and mounted above my writing desk. Actually I don’t know whether extra-terrestrial life is out there. I don’t spend much time speculating on that and that isn’t the reason I like the poster so much. It has more to do with the words because there is so much about life where I find myself saying, “I want to believe.” One thing I want to believe is that there is “out there” a confident, dominant woman I will find someday who wants to have a loving committed relationship with a submissive guy just like me.

My feelings about that seem to vacillate sometimes day to day. Sometimes like Mulder and his belief that the truth was always out there, I feel she is surely out there and someday I’ll find her. On other days more like Dana Scully, I find myself cast in the role of the skeptic. A few days ago I read a post on the blog of another submissive man. Someone I have never met and don’t actually “know” but someone who after following his blog for quite a while now, I find I really like and identify with. He too is feeling a bit skeptical these days about ever finding “the one” for the relationship he wants so desperately. I tend to emphasize, maybe a little too much with people I like and so I think I’ve been in a bit of a funk since reading his post and once again find myself feeling a little skeptical.

Please bear with me as I am indulging in a follow up of sorts to the piece I posted yesterday. I mentioned in that essay that I find myself wondering what kind of man a woman really wants. And I mentioned that I have read comments from women who state they would never entertain the idea of having a relationship with a submissive man. I actually even talked with a woman recently who expressed that same sentiment. First of all, she does not characterize herself as being a dominant female and so I won’t label her as such, but still what she said I think is important to consider as a submissive man. She did use the term “submissive" guys in her opinions but also used it interchangeable with another term we hear tossed about which often has a somewhat negative connotation these days, “nice" guys. It was pretty obvious, at least to me that she considered submissive men and nice guys to be pretty much one and the same.

Her reasons for having no interest in dating or having a relationship with submissive guys were based on her perceptions of what submissive men were like. She characterized them as follows; they exude insecurity and insecurity isn’t sexy, it’s a turnoff, they are so anxious to be liked and loved that they do things for other people to gain acceptance and attention, rather than for simply the pleasure of giving. You never know whether they really like you for who you are or if they are attracted to you just because you actually paid some kind of attention to them. They are too clingy and self-abasing. They try to buy your affections with presents and fancy things. They think they know about romance, but their timing is all wrong, and they either come on too strong or they are too shy and unassertive. They are so desperate to please that they put aside their own needs, and instead of just appreciating you they worship you and put you on a pedestal. They rarely speak up when something bothers them.

This woman does not know I self-identify as a submissive man and to me I didn’t feel she perceived me as one based on her candid comments. She is a nice person whom I like and I don’t think she would purposely say things to me that she thought would be hurtful. At least to me that seems to make a case for her perceptions of what submissive men are like as being totally off base. Sure it is my own self perception of myself that I base it on, but I don’t see much of anything she had to say as describing me. I’m not insecure but on the contrary consider myself to be a very confident person, just not in an ego-inflated, arrogant jerk kind of way. I do give a lot to women I’m in a relationship with both intangibly and tangibly but not out of some desperate need for affection or acceptance but simply because it brings me pleasure and is one of the ways I show affection. Is generosity something one should feel the need to apologize for? I don’t consider myself the least bit clingy. From time to time I feel the need for personal space and some alone time to re-charge my batteries, so certainly I understand a woman needs the same thing and I’d never deny her that. Submissive yes, that is part of my personality and nature, but I am neither shy nor unassertive. I don’t submit to everyone, I only want to submit to that special someone. I’m not self-abasing, but neither am I prideful. I think I have a very positive self-image and have healthy self-esteem. Being submissive does not equate with me with feelings of worthlessness and I’m not seeking to be debased or abused in a relationship. I think I have a good sense of romance and I enjoy being romantic. I have no problem expressing my feelings and emotions and have no hesitation about speaking up if something isn’t feeling right to me about a relationship. I am often the first one to speak up and call attention to it. Not in a complaining way but simply as a means of resolving an issue in a fast and positive way. Yes, it is important for me to please a woman I love, but I wouldn’t characterize it as being desperate to please. I do plead guilty to the following charges. I am more than willing to put aside my own needs in situations where I feel that is needed to please her. That to me is simply an expression of selflessness in a relationship rather than selfishness. Is that a bad thing? And yes, I do tend to place women I love on a pedestal and I do I suppose worship them, but it is simply that I want to make them feel special and appreciated. Yes, I’m submissive and yes, I’m a nice guy. Guilty as charged. But I just don’t see how that makes me boring even though it does perhaps make me a bit predictable.

Ever watch the series Friends? If so, do you remember the episode where I think it was Alec Baldwin who played Phoebe's boyfriend? Yes, that character was a bit over the top with niceness and I could see why a woman wouldn’t want a guy like that. That was too nice. Nice to the extreme and not something I think would be attractive because it is boring and because of the complete absence of any aggressiveness or edge. But I just don’t see myself at all in that way. I’m nice, I’m submissive but I do have some backbone and I don’t let people walk all over me. I can occasionally be a “bad” boy. I know how to say no sometimes. I can raise my voice and be heard. I can say erotic and sexy things at appropriate times. I can smack her ass and pull her hair during sex if that is something I know she enjoys. I have plenty of interests in guy things and other things beyond a relationship and actually I like my life and find plenty of personal fulfillment even when I’m not in one. I am a man after all and I know how to behave as one in positive ways.

There is a common saying, “nice guys finish last.” Equating “nice” with “submissive” I suppose there is that same old discrepancy in play between women's stated preferences and their actual choices in men. They may say that they want nice guys, but really seem to go for men who are jerks, or the proverbial bad boys in the end. Some people say that is because women believe society expects them to, they claim they want a nice guy but what they really want is the challenge that comes with having a relationship with the not-so-nice guy. When faced with a choice between a nice guy, a submissive guy and an unkind, insensitive, emotionally-closed, “controlling” type man they often seem to reject the nice guy in favor of his more macho competitor.

There is of course a good deal of ambiguity in the submissive man construct. Different women have different opinions and interpretations and the term “submissive man” means different things depending on the particular woman asked to define it. Sometimes I meet women who really seem to understand and appreciate submissive men and they often offer very flattering perceptions, characterizing them as committed, caring, and respectful of women. Other women however, have a different view and offer a more negative perception; submissive men are boring, lacking in confidence and therefore unattractive as a potential relationship or sexual partner. Interestingly, the same ambiguity exists when it comes to women’s perceptions of the bad boy type. Some describe them as confident, attractive, sexy, and exciting while other women view them as manipulative, unfaithful, disrespectful of women, and interested only in sex.

For all of our supposed faults, submissive guys are more than simply the kind of guy willing to endure hours of whining and bitching about what assholes guys are, while disproving the very point. More than just the kind of guys willing to provide a shoulder to lean on when needed, to hold open doors and give reassuring pats on the back and sit patiently outside the changing room at department stores. More than simply the kind of guys who will obligingly reiterate how cute, beautiful, smart, funny and sexy their female partners are at the appropriate moment because they know most girls want to hear those things. We are aware when a woman is fishing for compliments but give them out anyway because we know it is important. We are also the kind of guys that have laid-back attitudes, honest concern for women and that respect a woman in every facet, from her privacy to her opinions to her clothing style. I sometimes feel we are overlooked, underestimated, and unappreciated and sometimes don’t get credit where credit is due. We are boyfriend material but somehow don’t always end up being boyfriends. And dare I say it? Perhaps more disturbing, we don’t seem to get laid as often as we should.

Perhaps we as submissive men need to do more by putting ourselves out there to demonstrate the real submissive man construct. Perhaps we might then earn more credibility with the women in society. I still find myself hopeful that there is a dominant confident, woman out there or perhaps even one waiting to emerge, whose dominance will be drawn out by the submission I’m willing and ready to offer. Ladies I hope I have offered you a more truthful construct of the submissive man and that you will understand that indeed “the truth is out there.” As for me, “I want to believe” and hope I always will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is such an interesting post. I can definitely emphasize with your frustrations. But, I also understand where your friend is coming from.

I do think that women want nice men, but I also think that many men who describe themselves as nice are actually engaging in a form of emotional blackmail.

There is a difference between nice and codependent. A lot of the behaviors you describe (the sucking up, the insincere compliments, the clinginess) are really designed to put the other person in a sort of emotional debt, which the "nice" guy will later try to collect with interest.

It's a horrible situation to be in, because you either immediately have to reject the niceness and be a bitch, or later you are labeled as a user for not, say, sleeping with a guy after he has carried your groceries to your car. Is this really "nice" behavior?

Interestingly, women who go out with bad boys often play this "nice guy" role, and try to trap the bad boy with emotional debts.

Anyway, there's nice and there's "nice," just like there are sincere and insincere submissives.