“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.
So I like crossdressing and genderfluid men- I love a boyfriend surprising me with women’s lacy underthings, for example, under a suit or jeans- but I also think that the way sissification is viewed as a fetish indicates that a man dressing/acting like a woman (and how does a woman act, exactly?) would be intrinsically humiliating, which I disagree with. Rather, I think that being, shall we say, in touch with your feminine side, is something worthwhile and important, as is having a healthy relationship with your masculine side. I don’t think that women are sissies, or that men should be made to feel like womanhood is something they should be embarrassed to emulate. Shouldn’t they be proud with their ability to move beyond their physicality and society’s expectations and decide what’s sexy to them?
Then, let’s add another layer on here- small penis humiliation. Regardless of the size of the sissy’s penis, they always want to be told how small and useless their cocks are. Personally? I prefer average sized cocks, no question, hands down. I have a shallow pussy. Being a size queen would damage my cervix. I was told by one person into this kink that being in panties was more about him feeling humiliated about “not being a real man” rather than it being humiliating to be a woman. But women who wear boxers don’t get the same reaction of being humiliated- which suggests to me that to invoke the feminine, even by just wearing panties, is to enact a subservient, less powerful role. Problematic, right?
And finally, the last ARGH of the whole sissy thing- sissy maids. Now I’ll be the first to admit I have a personal vendetta against sissy maids to begin with. I’ve been training service submissives for a while now and sissy maids are almost exclusively the worst applicants ever. They wear impractical clothes to clean in, faff about doing very little in order to get punished (how’s she gonna clean the tub in this outfit?), demand, often, that I dress in Proper Domme Wear to make their useless work sexy for them, and then whine when I dismiss them rather than discipline them. Worst. Workers. EVER.
But let’s move away from my own weeping at service submission being destroyed by male privilege stomping on it in pink satin heels. The other huge issue is the idea that the sissy maid is the ultimate sissy- doing women’s work. By which of course we mean housework. Because men never do housework unless it’s sexualized for them and when they do the dishes it is oh-so-humiliating because they’re not man enough to get their woman to do it. Personally, my fantasies around labour involve digging pointless holes only to fill them and dig them elsewhere. If I have a man around and I want to give him a useless task, he’s going to be digging, or lugging a log around, so I can watch his muscles strain. Not scrubbing my toilet in a fluffy gown or shiny maid uniform that’ll melt when it touches caustic cleaning chemicals.
Thinking about this in terms of genderfuckery, queer sex, and the idea of female-2-femme, I wonder if I’m partially making a distinction between femininity (these stereotypes and assumptions about sexual passivity, lingerie and makeup) and femme, which I see as empowered and claiming girliness for yourself, defining what you want that to be.
Or is it something else? Am I recoiling at the idea that this is a fetish based on ideas about femininity I find bothersome? The fact that no one ever asks me to validate their girly self, but rather chastise them for having that inner femme, suggests that it’s expected that these clients would feel negatively for it. I guess it’d be like if I said “I want to role play being a man- I want to fart, drink lots of beer, not talk about my feelings, be sexually aggressive, be homophobic, and watch sports”… except in that role play, would I be ashamed? Probably not, if I was playing my role right. I’d be like, “look, this is how I am, deal”. Shame seems to be something linked into the feminine in this way. Why is that? We can say “oh, because it demonstrates weakness in a man, a tender side”, but why is that really? Why don’t these “sissy” men want to be empowered? Why is it still so shaming to be feminine?
A book I really enjoyed on this topic was “Why Are Faggots So Afraid Of Faggots?”, which speaks to male femme experiences really well. I was told on Tumblr that as a queer woman I’m not allowed to identify as femme because it’s a lesbian term, something that I sideeyed rather strongly. I do believe that anyone can identify as femme and self-define what femme means to them. Maybe it’s that lack of critique that ultimately makes me resent the whole “sissification” thing. I would love to see masculine-leaning folks exploring femme playfully and with curiosity, rather than from a place of deep shame and misogyny. I think that trans* misogyny absolutely comes from the same root, that femme is bad, that to “choose” to be a woman is bad. And it’s past time to critique that attitude.