[ Reposted from here at Trin's request and in a fit of, 'Oh, right, that so goes at SM-F, doesn't it?' ]
I've got a fair amount of stuff rattling around in my head in response to Dev's post about female submission, and a lot of it is horrifyingly fraught and such, so I'm going to try to get what I said in the comments there coherent and see if I can deal with the rest of it later when I'm feeling less like bleeding on the carpet about it.
I am not a female submissive.
I am a woman. I am submissive.
Spotting the difference matters.
I'm on a couple of BDSM communities on livejournal, and every so often someone will pop up with "I read on male_dom" or "femdom" or "humbled_females" or something else linking sex or gender to power exchange. And while I'm pretty easy for communities, none of these have ever even remotely tempted me, not even as a place to lurk. They don't offer me anything I value, that I can value. I just ... not only is this not my kink, it's a kink that makes me uncomfortable.
And some of that discomfort is being genderqueer enough that any sort of sex-based essentialism tends to throw me out of the conversation entirely, because I'm either miscategorised or in that neither-fish-nor-fowl place where somehow, in the discussion being had, I don't exist. And not existing is a nasty, uncomfortable place to keep winding up being, so I prefer to stick to fields where my status as an extant being doesn't throw errors everywhere.
The thing is, these things aren't descriptive to me, stuff like "M/f" or "F/m"; they don't seem to describe systems where those just happen to be the relationships those people have, but rather something where it is important that The Person Of One Sex Is Dominant, and The Person Of The Other Sex Is Submissive. It's a particular gendering fetish, and it's not one that I share; it's not one I want to be involved with, either. ("Your kink may be okay, but I'll go over there now.")
If one isn't treating the sexes of the people involved as something that matters, then there isn't a need to specify. Those facts will come up as relevant, and if they're not relevant, they won't, and there's no sense bringing them up. There's no need to make a marked case of it. Someone reading for detail can probably pick out the facts of various interactions, to some level, and make guesses about others, especially as I do not go to any particular effort to conceal stray data (partially as a political act), but unless it matters, that's just data kicking around.
And every so often I get in my tracking someone doing a websearch for 'femsub' (and that's, I believe, the first time that appears in this blog; I just googled and got this for the search result, which doesn't contain it), and I sort of wince and want to shake the boxes a little, make space in which I can be a submissive without being a "femsub". Because I'm not one, and no amount of treating someone who fits two categories, who is 'female' and 'submissive', as thereby going into a category that links the two will make me stop existing for the convenience of the categorisers.
And all this leaves me awkwardly on the edge of discussions of differences in perspective on seeing a male submissive or a female submissive. For reasons that I think have a lot in common with people who have conceptual issues with the two -- that I'm deeply uncomfortable with stuff that looks like it's framing 'power' and 'sex|gender' as being intrinsically linked in a particular way -- but from my usual Klein perspective. Because I don't approach or perceive power as gendered, I can't meaningfully take part in a conversation in which the gendering of power is present as an axiom. It erases me from the discourse.
It most particularly erases my power. When my submission is gendered, it feels to me like it turns it into something that's about-womanness, rather than about-power. And I can't understand that as anything other than a caricature, because it's so alien to me, so it feels like treating me as a cardboard cutout, making my status as a woman the first and most important thing about me in a context where I feel the most important thing is my status as a submissive.
And yes, there's a fuckton of problematic stuff out there about power, especially in this context sexualised power, and sex|gender. I don't deny that, because I'm not a damned fool. But my submission is not about womanhood, it's not about femininity, it's not about genitalia; it's about loyalty, dedication, oathmaking and oathkeeping, being a pillar of support, service, strength, and trust.
These are not incompatible with being a woman, but they are not female. Focusing on my femaleness uncenters the perception from my power.
And it's all about the power.