Fears of submissive men

Susannah Clary wrote an interesting post about her recent dating experiences where she mused that it’s taking many men into their 40s and 50s to discover and accept who they really are.

That led to her asking these questions:

To my readers who identify as submissive or switch men, how did/do you deal with fear and self-acceptance?
How can I help men I encounter to begin that journey of self-acceptance and overcome their fears?

I commented over there, but it was already really long and I had more to say, so I’m bringing it over here.

I don’t have any answers (of course I don’t!), but I will say that I think a big part of this is generational. That is, it’s less that it takes men until they are 40+ to figure out who they are, and more that *the generation of men who are now 40+* didn’t have a cultural or social environment in which it was okay to explore alternatives from the traditional gender roles and norms.

Younger men are growing up in a more flexible and open culture where they have some freedom to explore their sexuality, and that makes for a much easier and natural road to ‘oh, right, so THIS is who I am’ much earlier. Obviously that’s not true for everyone everywhere, but as a generalisation, there’s a lot more acceptance of alternatives to the traditional ‘way it is’ now.

Men who are now 40+ never had that, so when they finally feel free to step out of the box (after their divorce and their kids are grown up and any number of vanilla failures), they struggle like hell to undo all those years of conditioning. 40+ years of being IN the ‘man’ box makes for a hard road because anything outside of it is part of the ‘not man’ box and they’ve been hammered with the belief that that’s not okay. Ugh.

My experience: some men who have submissive leanings and who struggle with what that means (or what they THINK it means) will simply never get to the point where they accept that about themselves.

I recently talked about emotional fearlessness, and it fits here.

My last was a 40-ish total newbie and he was terrified of admitting that he was not the person he had been to himself (and to girlfriends and friends and family) all of his life. Because it’s terrifying. I went there with him because I knew he had the emotional courage to overcome that fear. I could create that safe space for him, but HE had to be the one to jump, and I think that for some (many? most?) who have that fear, that’s a step they just can’t take.

If I’m a dominant woman on the other side of that struggle, it manifests as flakiness, unreliability, alternate hot and cold feelings, rejection, then neediness, a whole mess of ‘aw hell no!’

If I see fear plus emotional courage, I’ll still go there. If I see fear plus fear, I’m done. I haven’t the patience to deal with it because I know exactly what it’s going to look like and it’s a fast road to aggravation and heartbreak and while I can sympathise with that struggle, I don’t have the appetite to bite off that chunk of ugly.

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  1. I have to admit that my experience ties in very neatly with Susannah Clary’s observations. I’m in my early 50s and have only just fully realised my submissive nature! I find it strange that it took me so long to discover my real nature – I wasn’t battling it, I just didn’t understand myself.

    1. Thank you for sharing Alsknight.

      I’m curious, if you don’t mind answering:

      – Was there a catalyst for this understanding?
      – And do you have a lot of fear about it, or difficulty in accepting it?


  2. i’m in a 20 year plus marriage. We were vanilla until 3 years ago. Then it all came out. I’d now consider myself an alpha male at work and submissive at home in the bedroom. Once our kids head off to college this year I’d expect my submission to expand throughout the house. Our marriage just works so much better now.

  3. Another interesting post, with lots of links to follow up.

    I too took until I was 50 to realise what I really wanted. I was fortunate enough to find myself before I was divorced. This was closer than I thought, which I only found out about after I began to discuss this with my wife. I was also told last night that if I revert to my former closed off self, then this would be the result. Ouch.

    Looking at the various relationships that are visible here it seems that it takes a significant event to force us men to really look inward. I think we all get caught up in our social programming and we are trying to live the ‘ideal’ life. Wife, two kids, house, dog (or cat if so inclined), car and good job. This can also be influenced by meeting the expectations of our parents. Then when we get to our 40s things begin to change, the children grow up and don’t need us as much anymore, we realise as parents that our parents didn’t have all the answers and that they made mistakes, some relationships fail. We fall out of love, we bring up old arguments and we bring up all our hurts that often get pushed aside by life and raising children.

    We then start to realise that our youth is behind us, and if we keep going down this path we are going to become grumpy, lonely old men. No one to care for us or to look after. We still feel and think young but the mirror doesn’t lie. For many submissive men this feeling of rejection and failure brings on this fear, and hopefully gives us the courage to become ’emotionally fearless’ to let our real selves out and be on display including all our little and not so little fantasies. We need that safe space to do that and a good woman who knows what she wants and is not prepared to let us be less than open, honest and trustworthy. I am slowly overcoming this fear, my emotions are on display and my walls are being dismantled. In every step I find my fears to be lessening, the role is the right one, my wife knows me better than I do and is prepared to help and guide me. Life is becoming new and wonderful again and I can see where this journey will take us for the next few decades. I am happier and more content now than I have every been in my adult life. Thanks Fern for prompting this reflection. DtBHC.

    1. This was such a great comment: I expect you have described very much the path that many men of 40+ travel. Thank you so much for sharing it.

      I think you are blessed to have been able to share it with your wife (she is also, of course) and to then travel that road together. I suspect much of the reflection you have described leads to difficult discusions, divorce, and a ‘starting over’, which carries with it its own set of baggage.

      So very lovely to hear a story of happiness *smile*.


  4. As always a great thoughtful,honest post…from my limited experience…it was there all the time…. And easily seen by a dominantly women…..

  5. I’m 30, and I started actively pursuing my submissive desires in my late 20s, so I can’t offer the perspective of those men in their 40s or 50s. I can, however, confirm Ferns’ theory that at least some younger men aren’t conditioned with the same sense of what it means to be a “real man.”

    That’s not to say I don’t know what is expected of a man’s man. Even now, the image is near ubiquitous. But the message that there’s no single right way to be a man is out there and available. When I realized I was kinky and submissive, and that I would be happier with someone who wanted that, there was never any fear or doubt about what that said about me.

    There was fear of being outed, but that is about the risk of material consequences of being outed, like possible job loss, etc., rather than being ashamed of being submissive. The times I’ve played at a party, I’ve been way more self conscious about my body than about the fact that I’m one of a very few submissive men in the scene here.

    1. “When I realized I was kinky and submissive, and that I would be happier with someone who wanted that, there was never any fear or doubt about what that said about me.”

      I’m so glad to hear that Neophyte. I really hope that you represent a large number of your generation in that.

      I do think it’s getting easier, and while everyone can shudder over 50 Shades, bringing BDSM into the mainstream as a topic to be talked about (vs something to be sneered at because ‘freaks’) will help to socialise it as acceptable.


  6. With me it took a long time to accept my submissiveness as a part of myself. It has been there for as long as I can remember. It took a lot of self doubt, anger, confusion, introspection and interacting on sites like this and fetlife to name a few for me to accept that this is just me. A hard and lonely process at times but I wouldn’t be m,e without it and look forward to build a future where it forms a consensual part of my relationships. Even though I have not played yet I know I is a part of what make me, me.

    I didn’t bring it up with anyone I had sex with, One night stands or my only serious relationship. I was worried that she would reject me because of it and so I lied to myself through my late teens and early 20s. In the last 2 years though I have explored it and claimed it. Approaching 25 I have decided that this is not something I am going to lie to myself or future partners about.

    In terms of manliness, it is something I define for myself.

    1. Good for you Matt, and thank you so much for sharing.

      I really love to hear that young men are figuring this out so early (I know it may feel like it took you forever, but at 25 you’re way ahead of the game: go you!).

      “In terms of manliness, it is something I define for myself.”

      Perfect *smile*.


  7. “Finding Yourself” in your 40s and 50s is, in a very cliche way, What Men Do. Sometimes they ‘find’ themselves in a new, expensive sports car. (And they find themselves with hefty payments for said fancy ride.) Or they find themselves paying for a new, expensive girlfriend/lover/mistress/wife. (Insert pithy comment about spendy rides, here: __________.) But often, I think, men who are currently in their 50s find themselves in a curious position. They are thinking – sometimes for the first time – about the way they were brought up, about whether who they are on the inside matches what the world sees (and Other People’s opinions are either {a} given no thought whatsoever, or {b} become the crux of his identity {crisis}, because middle age looks remarkably like teenagehood, particularly where sex and emotions are concerned), about mortality, about Living The Dream (which, for some, equates to living a fantasy), and they become suddenly concerned with Being Their Authentic Self, while simultaneously fearing being “outed” as anything less than what their generation sees as Manly.

    Another thing that I think men who are currently in their 50s struggle with, that may not even occur to those who are in younger decades of their lives, is How A Woman Should Be Treated. I see this in my husband, who was raised in a time of social upheaval, and who has had a huge struggle throughout his entire life to balance the concepts of being The Right Kind Of Man and being despised for being a man at all. (I suspect this is not something anybody outside of the ’60s would fathom.)

    Throw all that into a bowl and stir.

    Then add in a teaspoon of kink, a dollop of self-consciousness (or self-loathing), and refrigerate until all communicative vicabulary is chilled. Roll evenly and cut into desired shape. Set oven to 350° but don’t be surprised if the dough doesn’t rise.

    Oh, and make sure the mortgage is paid on time.

    Men have struggles that women will never understand (wrapping your head around a concept *intellectually* is FAR different than getting it *intrinsically*), and I think that goes double for s-types of a certain age.

    (And honestly, it can – for a D-type – be a lot of fucking work to get through/around/over those struggles.)

    While all of this may be true (or not – what the hell do I know?) for “40+” men, I have to say that I see a huge difference between subs in their 40s and those in their 50s, especially in terms of owning their desires and communicating their needs. And I say that as a woman whose current partners are 55 and 45 respectively. There’s a world of difference to be found in a decade.

    1. Ahh, so interesting, and I do agree with a lot of your musings there.

      I do think that a ‘mid life crisis’ of sorts can trigger that desire to (finally) be their authentic self (while still being terrified in all the ways you expressed).

      I find it really interesting that you see such a different between 40s and 50s (I assume here that both of your subs are newbies, or do you see the struggle continuing long after they no longer get to claim that label?). I’d have thought that their struggles (generationally at least) would be very similar.

      Thanks so much for your thoughts.


      1. I don’t know that I would call either of them a “newbie” (my husband has been with me, and we have been The Way We Are, for 12 years; my boyfriend for two) but if there is one thing the two have in common it is that, for both of them, “submissive” is something they *do* as opposed to something they *are*. (Their interpretations, not mine. It’s called “denial” and it’s something that both generations excel at.) Though… While for each of them, their submissiveness is natural, I’m the only one for/with whom they have ever practiced it. In each of their respective past relationships, they have taken on more traditional roles. It can be a difficult for men to reconcile the two, I think. So I completely ‘get’ the “I Do” versus “I Am” mentality.

        As for the differences in ages, there are a lot of factors in play of course. Birth order, family values, geography, social status, personality type, etc. all play a part in Who We Are. But really, men who are in their 40’s spent a portion of their teenagehood in the ’80s, which was not only the decade of excess, but was also the decade where Talking About Your Feelings was something that was taught. There’s a huge difference between being raised in that kind of environment, and being raised during a time when bra burnings and race riots were an everyday experience.

        I wonder if the same is true of the two generations in countries outside the US?

  8. Great post. You are an inspiration being a domainant woman unafraid to express yourself. Being 40 i can certainly identify with those coming to sudden realizations, but it has always been achingly obvious to me since my early teens, so it’s been all about finding that dominant woman. They are in great demand!!

    1. Thanks Asher. I do think that submissives who discover and accept it early have it much easier than those who have that revelation later in life.

      And trust me, quality submissives are in great demand also *smile*.


  9. My overall experience is almost dead on the same as to DtBHC (right down to the divorce and things had better not go back part).
    My wife and I are now doing through the transition time of the first few months of an FLR and the part we are struggling with is the fact that she is sensing my lack of confidence. I think that a lack of confidence (even in a submissive) is simply unsexy. I believe this is directly a result of my fears. I know who I am and am confident in that however I still carry in the back of my head the fear of being rejected by her. It is compounded by the knowledge that most of society would think less of me because I am submissive at home. In effect, my lack of confidence due to rejection is in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    1. Ugh! I wrote a long reply to you and it disappeared.

      The short version:

      Congratulations to you and your wife for exploring an FLR together. Challenging and hopefully really rewarding.

      Then I went into ‘unsolicited advice’ mode. Ignore at will.

      Your fear is *normal*. This is all new, and vulnerability is scary. I suspect your wife is scared also.

      Personally, as a dominant, I LOVE fear. Love it. It gives me a chance to be the rock, the nurturer, the support, the cheerleader, and I love that. As long as he has the courage to power through it with me as coach. But for that to happen, he has to be brave enough to SHARE his fears. If you haven’t talked to your wife about all of this please do.

      Needing a lot of reassurance (both of you, don’t for one second imagine that she isn’t scared also) during this transition time is to be expected. Setting a pace that allows you to extend *just* beyond your comfort zone (vs diving into the deep end) with constant check-ins and lots of reassurance will help you (both) build your confidence.

      Best of luck to you.


      1. Thank you for taking the time to respond (and sorry you lost your longer post). Your advice was most appreciated and helped quite a bit. It hadn’t actually occurred to me that she might be feeling scared or worried as well (men can be dumb).

  10. I’m a kinky man in my 30s. I’m always reluctant to say submissive even if my private fantasies are almost always like that.

    I’m out to my wife, and we play. I know by now which of my favourite activities she likes, which she tolerates and which are actively unattractive to her. She’s open-minded but wouldn’t call herself kinky.

    The fear, for me at least, is less about meeting some traditional definition of masculinity and more about being simply unattractive. I think that almost all women find status, strength and confidence hot, but these are not the things that come to mind when someone mentions male submission.

    The results of these feelings are exactly as you describe: “flakiness, unreliability, alternate hot and cold feelings, rejection, then neediness”.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing.

      I’m not sure there is a distinction between how you describe ‘being unattractive’ and the traditional definition of masculinity. Even if you don’t use that terminology, your fears sound like exactly that. And they are absolutely valid fears.

      I’m glad that you have a wife who will play with some of those kink activities with you, even if she doesn’t identify as kinky. For the record, many people will absolutely get their kink on as long as you don’t mention the word ‘kinky’ because that’s weird and freaky.

      I appreciate your thoughts.


  11. Admitting it to myself, and accepting that fact was the easy part. It took the right person to, lead me to the edge and let me look over. When I was ready to take the leap , I was pulled back. I was ready, but she couldn’t/ wouldn’t hold my hand and leap with me. I believe she wanted to, however it seems fear goes both ways, and circumstances sometimes are mountains difficult for people to climb. Especially if they need to climb together. I wouldn’t change a thing, even now. Smile now Snow White, I do. It’s over now their are no words left to speak. If you have a choice to make someone smile or not, smiles last and you really don’t need words now do you.

    1. You are 100% right: Fear goes both ways. Though I guess I’d posit that the reason for those fears are different for dominant women than for submissive men.

      Either way, the outcome can be the same: It’s a shame she wasn’t ready to take that leap with you.


      1. Yes…it is ashame…I still think about her…she …well, there were a shit ton of moving parts and I never could get any of them to stop at the right place or the right time.

        1. That would make an interesting post. Not sure I’ve explicitly written about that before.

          I’ll have a think about it, thank you for the question.


  12. I hope you have given my question some thought. Please tell me what you consider to be the differences in the fear a dominate woman feels as opposed to a submissive male.

    The hand that grips

    1. I haven’t yet written anything about it, but briefly, there are elements in common and some that are very different.

      I wrote this a long while ago, and a lot of it can be turned around to apply to dominant women also, especially if they come into their own later in life.

      I think one of the main differences for dominant women vs submissive men in this discovery, though, is that dominants are expected to show confidence and take the lead in a situation where they lack confidence and haven’t a clue what they are doing. And that’s terrifying.
      And being terrified is not a mindset that allows anyone to ‘be dominant’.

      For many new Dommes, even if they are knowledgeable on paper, I think that the ‘uber Domme’ stereotype looms large (I don’t even mean a ‘porn Domme’ stereotype, but just getting snippets of ‘how dominant women are’ even in places like this blog can mislead someone into thinking something that’s not true). And having the idea that that’s ‘how they should be’ can lead to them being afraid that they can’t do it. And I think there’s often an issue when the rubber hits the road that they don’t trust their partner (real or imagined) to submit, and then what do they do?

      ‘Getting it wrong’ or ‘fucking it up’ when you are supposed to be leading confidently and well would be humiliating and awful, and it takes a certain ‘shoring up of self belief’ and trust to make the leap.

      If they have doubts (and they probably will), and especially if they have been presenting a ‘persona’ online of who they wish to be, I think it’s easy to talk themselves out of ever trying it for real for fear of disappointing themselves and their partner.

      From that perspective, I think it’s a lot easier if they explore not as ‘a dominant’, but as someone just learning and taking baby steps. There is no need for them to jump into the deep end first off. They can dip a toe in and see how it feels. Then maybe a foot. And etc. But I’m not sure that that feels or looks like ‘how dominance should be’ to someone who is scared, so that has its own difficulties.

      I hope that helps some.


      1. I am glad you shared your thoughts with me. My initial response is “wow” , I never considered that aspect of the dynamic. Probably because as a male, or as far as that goes,as a human, I was to wrapped up in my own selfishness to consider that the Dominant woman is having or had the same struggles that I did as a submissive man. It’s not always easy to fill a role, even when it’s inherent , whether it be dominant or submissive. That takes me back to my original post where I stated that circumstances sometimes are mountains difficult to climb, especially if they need to climb together. Imagine if each had the courage to share with the other the fears they were facing. Maybe if they had been honest with each other in the beginning , as opposed to projecting A persona that was more fluff than fact the mountain would have been reduced to a mole hill. I guess they might have been able to get to the top but the “leap over the edge” wouldn’t have been near as climactic. So we are full circle now, each knowing a little more about the other, with a little more experience and nothing left to hide. We are here at this place, can you stand up now , dust yourself off and say I’should have been more honest to begin with instead of attempting to be someone I wasn’t ? Can you hold my hand now and let’s do this together?

    1. Blimey what a demanding little creature you appear to be Hand. Possibly you should consider a post addressing the consequences of coming across as a bit of a dickhead ?

  13. Sorry if I come across as being demanding, I certainly have no intention of offending anyone. I will certainly keep my tone in check. If I may explain, if I hadn’t been persistent I never would have understood that a dominant woman would have fears that paralleled my own. As a result my interactions with people in general will reflect that and I shall be not only aware but willing to be more honest about my own fears in hopes of reducing the mountain of uncertainty to a mole hill. Please excuse my never ending sentences, they run forever. And again I apologize if I seemed so demanding. That all being said I would hope my request for a post on how honesty in the beginning May result in consequences that are favorable to a potential relationship as opposed to the negative consequences that typically lead to disappointment. Please consider my request.

  14. TO MY FAVORITE , I leaped without you raindrop, I could not resist what I saw when you took me to the edge and let me look over. The fall has turned into a flight of freedom, an adventure with no end in sight, and more good than bad. I’m like the baby bird that leaves the nest, I still look back, but with a smile. I’ve turned my head forward to soar. It was you raindrop that gave me the courage I needed to take that leap.

    Thank you, raindrop
    The hand that grips

  15. Sorry for the late response. I just read this article and I loved it. As a bi male switch I identified with a lot of the fears you described. I wanted to open up about a couple fears that I’ve experienced.

    It’s definitely scary revealing feelings and desires, especially when there’s a lack of safe spaces to do so. Certainly I think that a lot of couples struggle with this in their relationships. I think most people will say they value open and honest communication with their partners but I think many don’t really want it because they fail to create a safe space for it to happen. Men’s worst fears to open up about feelings and desires like these are often confirmed when their partner rejects them for having them. Sadly I think that this probably happens way more often than we know about.

    It’s not just a problem with creating spaces in a relationship but physical spaces too. I’ve personally experienced going to a munch and noticing the hostility that male subs receive. I’ve seen this in the way that Dommes are treated as well. Another thing that I don’t think is noticed very often is that while there are some resources and support available for Dommes there doesn’t exist as many for male subs to do the same. It’s like a catch-22 male subs need to have safe spaces for exploration and expression but they need to create those spaces before they can explore themselves. It also doesn’t help that when those spaces are created many of the men who show up aren’t really interested in exploring those desires – if they honestly had them at all – but are only looking for sexual opportunities. I think this is the real reason for the misconceptions about “the ratio”.

    One of my biggest fears has been that these feelings and desires, which are very much a part of who I am, will never be valued or desired. This is more than wanting acceptance although it’s a part of it, but it’s also that it’s a part of me that I’ve never shared with another human. There’s a very real fear that I’ll never find a partner who wants to explore that with me and nurture it so it can grow and flourish to it’s fullest expression.

    1. No need to apologise for a late response: I’m delighted when people find relevance in older posts :).

      I think your fears are completely valid, and I’m sorry you had bad experiences at munches :/.

      I agree with you about support for male subs. One of the things I always think is a shame is that submissive men never seem to want to get support from EACH OTHER. I’ve seen men try to set up local and online support groups for submissive men over the years, and they never get any interest.

      I assume because traditional gender roles means that men talking to other men about their feelings is such a foreign concept that they can’t get on board. It does end up landing a lot of weight on women to do that work though, which is a huge shame. It means women have to provide support for other women AND also for men (I also think a huge issue is that that’s often *expected* of women to do that emotional labour, which is a whole other topic).

      I don’t have any solutions. I wish I did.


  16. I love this conversation. As a 50-something who has been totally transparent with my wife who will have no part of it, I am genuinely jealous of men with willing Domme partners who accept them as is. I never gave the mixed signal self loathing act. I just wanted a Mistress wife and the happy slave life. Life is complicated and I have commitments to family I can’t break but the yearning never ends.

  17. Hi Miss Ferns (my apologies, but I cannot call you just Ferns),

    I’m 50 and have felt the need to serve women since I was four or five years old. It’s just part of who I am.

    I think the problem is that if you were born in the 70s / 80s then the only frame of reference for being a male are the archetypes which came before us; that old adage ‘our fathers were our models for god’ thing.

    If we are on our own in the journey of learning our nature as a submissive, or what I really think it is about; loving and respecting women for who that are – then we can feel rudderless and completely without identity. The question echoes through the man:

    ‘How can I as a man who has no strong woman to serve and adore ever realise my true feelings and nature if I never have the opportunity to express them?’

    The sex stuff of being a woman’s plaything is wonderful, there is nothing more exhilarating – like nothing else I have ever experienced. However, when engaging with women in the outside world, sex is obviously not part of the dynamic and nor should it be.

    The man can therefore feel trapped in his own paradigm emblazoned on him by generations of men who fought adversity and were seen as real men. The paradox here though is that these real men likely a big part of the system which has subjugated women forever.

    I’m married with children. I love my wife (and children) very much and my behaviours towards her are structured around caring and serving her.

    Nearly every man I know still objectifies women sexually and sees them as some sort of lower class human. I am simply staggered by this. I mean it leaves me speechless. I often find myself apologising for my half of the species to complete strangers at how a man has spoken to them or looked at them as if they are some sort of fleshy hole for them to fill. I heard some young men calling a grown woman ‘milf-gash’ to her face a little while ago. We almost got into a fist fight in the supermarket. The poor woman was so upset.

    For men of my generation struggling with their feelings around being submissive to women, I would say treat every women you encounter with the same high level of respect and dignity. Be engaging and show real interest in her thoughts and feelings. Take the time to compliment and appreciate her, every woman has her own beauty. Recognise this and you may find that the struggle you have been struggling with is only another layer of defunct programming and you will be free to be who you are, but more much, much more importantly women will be free to be who they are.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter, for what they are worth and why I can’t call you just by your last name!

    Thank you Miss Ferns, I think you’re doing a huge thing with your work in educating both men and women on relationships in all their many guises.

    Michael x

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