“Femininity is for Sissies”: or, the Queering of Forced Feminization

When I was working as a professional Domme, I got a fair number of requests from men who want to be “sissified”, “forced” into frilly girly undies and makeup and turned into an “objectified slut”. Sissification is one of those things I encounter often, both in the Femdom scene and the AB/DL scene, and while I love the dresses, I wonder about the intention behind this kink. I find it all kinds of problematic on multiple levels.

First of all, I don’t see how putting on women’s clothing is humiliating, by itself, unless you think it symbolizes being less masculine, and you think that’s humiliating (Bitchy Jones has some great things to say about this). Though, that said, I notice with sissification it’s never just putting on women’s clothing- it’s generally women’s clothing that is either over the top sexualized or over the top infantalized, both problematic statements on male impressions of female desirability. Their sissy personas are generally inclined towards heavy makeup, ruffled underthings and too-high heels, unlike many of the femmes I know. Rather than expressing a positive, healthy femininity, men wishing to be sissified seem to be more interested in being either innocent, helpless little girls or sexually available sexpots. Madonna/whore complex, anyone?

This request is most often verbalized like this; “I want to be your slave. By which I mean, I want you to dress me up in impractical clothes, tell me how embarrassed I should be for wearing them, and then objectify me, treat me like a cheap date”.

I generally respond with “you want to feel like a woman? I’ll strip you naked, put you in front of a mirror and you can cry about your body for an hour.”

It feels like there’s such disparity between what men fantasize the female experience is like, and the reality. Men I’ve spoken to speak longingly about having women look at them the way masculine-leaning people look at feminine-presenting folks- leering, in other words. That sounds fun in theory- in practice, try being a little extra wary every time you walk down the street, because someone might decide that because you look female you’re a target for attack. And it’s great to have more freedom to express your emotions… until you’re told that your anger is probably just PMS, or that crying proves that you’re not as emotionally strong as men are. And men are rarely challenged about their masculinity if they choose not to breed, while women do deal with these prejudices. Dare I say, I bet it’d fun to playact “being a woman” when you can go back to your male privilege at the end if the day!

Trans* women do not get that privilege. Cis women don’t get that privilege.

Never mind the disparity between going to a professional Dominatrix to be sissified- a woman in power, a woman you plan to submit to. And yet your service is to basically tell me that my gender is one you feel embarrassed to look or act anything like. Wait, where’s my power, again? Even stranger is how Mistress Lorelei of the Charm School for Sissy Girls puts it- “In fact, in that situation we have three genders: male (what the sub started out as), Female (The Domme in all her splendor), and sissy (what the sissy becomes)”. So being female is (or can be) powerful, but to be a man engaging with his femininity is to give up that power, I guess. Why can’t a man be femme and still powerful? I mean, drag queens aren’t sissies. And men don’t have to be femme by going all the way into having passable femininity as a goal, anyway, do they?

Don’t get me wrong- I adore genderfuckery. Ilove men in skirts- a-lines tend to look nice, though I’m a sucker for petticoats- but I don’t see that as taking away from their masculinity in any way. And no, I don’t mean just kilts- and neither does the fashion world, which gives men in skirts a go every now and again. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are pretty much the hottest bunch of activists ever, if you ask me, with the glitter in their beards and their personalized habits. And David Bowie. Can I just mention David Bowie? Or Noel Fielding? Definitely a couple of guys in touch with their femme side, and yet the way they reflect that doesn’t come across as encouraging stereotypical female roles. They mess about with gender in a way that comes off as sexy, confident, and playful. That’s really sexy. And it’s worlds away from images of forced feminization.

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