When women are portrayed as submissive in popular media, the reaction broadly seems to be one of two things: "that's hot" or "that's offensive." When men are portrayed as submissive, the reaction is more likely to be one of pity or derision. I recently attended a play party and got chatting to a male dominant while a male submissive was strapped to a nearby spanking bench and flogged by his female dominant. The submissive was young, slightly built, and wearing only a skimpy G-string. The dom I was conversing with admitted he found it hard to watch another man being dominated, because he felt the male submissive was letting their side down. "I want to say, 'be a man!'" he admitted, although he went on to say he respected that submission made this particular man happy. In her essay "Maid To Order: Commercial S/M and Gender Power," Anne Mclintock points out that "S/M theatrically flouts the edict that manhood is synonymous with mastery, and submission a female fate." Indeed, the media fascination that results every time a powerful man is caught associating with a dominatrix implies an ongoing curiosity about BDSM's power to invert gender stereotypes .
The female dominant (domme, dominatrix, domina, mistress, etc.) may appear to be a more defendable BDSM stereotype than that of the female submissive. On the surface, fem-doms invert negative stereotypes about female sexuality and the "female" personality. They are women who take control, who behave aggressively, who know what they want and demand it with force if necessary. In other words, they take on characteristics traditionally seen as "male." But while they may be accused of letting feminism down less often than their submissive sisters, dommes have it just as rough when it comes to the media.