In this three-part blog I’m going to examine three dominant and powerful women: The Dominatrix, Cuckoldress, and the Hot Wife, and the men who seemingly need them. In Part I, I’ll discuss the Dominatrix. Part II will address the lesser known Cuckoldress and Hot Wife. And in Part III, I’ll examine the sexually passive men who paradoxically and simultaneously experience the pain and pleasure of being dominated. The dominatrix, cuckoldress, and hot wife are not listed in the DSM-V (2013). But because they vary in frequency and intensity, they can qualify as a form of sexual humiliation or sadism depending on the level of impairment.
I became particularly interested in this subject matter after having noticed an increase in the number of couples entering my clinical practice to work out the kinks (no pun intended) of their female-dominant/male-submissive relationships. Much of this work centered on one or both partners breaking an agreed upon contract. For example, a self-identified cuckoldress brought her husband to treatment because “he had the nerve” to cheat on her with another woman. A passive male cuckold insisted on marital counseling because his wife took a lover that he hated.
I’ll admit that while I’ve seen my share of cuckoldresses and hot wives over the years, I’ve only treated a handful of dominatrices. One dominatrix wanted out of the field, while the others had some difficulty separating their professional and personal personas. Nevertheless, I believe fewer dominatrices present for treatment in part, because as professionals they have comparatively less of an emotional investment in their relations as do the cuckoldress and hot wife. Dominatrices may also have more control over their contractual agreements because they were formed with clients, not their intimate partners. It’s always harder to deal with family.
A Shift in Power
Kraft-Ebing (1886/1965) believed that it made evolutionary sense that a man be dominant and a woman, passive. Men were to fight off rival suitors and other dangers, and to procreate. Women were to contribute to this process by voluntarily subordinating to men. Kraft-Ebing easily extrapolated from this that men tended towards the aggressive and sadistic, and women towards the passive and masochistic. This stance is somewhat in tune with both Freud (1905/1953) and Deustch (1944) who believed that females were innately masochistic and passive.
According to Kahn (2009), times have changed as women are now somewhat freer to assert their dominance over men in all phases of life, but not without a struggle. The author claimed that many societies are having an extremely hard time allowing for this exchange of power and control to happen…particularly in a sexual context. In her article, “Putting a dominatrix in her place: The representation and regulation of female dom/male sub sexuality,” Kahn demonstrated that “social anxiety” sets in when women act or are even perceived to be more dominant and powerful than men…and men passive and weak. To her point, she compared the dynamics of the famous Canadian legal ordeal of Terri-jean Bedford, a dominatrix wrongly accused of prostitution, to the way dominatrices are treated in film. Kahn reported that the police and judge became the dominant forces and abusively relegated Bedford to a submissive. In the films Kahn used for comparison, strong white males eventually conquered, tamed and domesticated the dominatrices. The objective: to curb social anxiety by restoring men to their rightful position of power over women.
Dominatrix is the feminine form of the Latin dominator, a ruler or lord, and was originally used in a non-sexual sense dating back to around 1561. The term dominatrix is sometimes used to describe a professional dominant (or “pro-domme”) who is paid to engage in BDSM (i.e., bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism) with a submissive. An appointment or role play is referred to as a “session,” and is often conducted in a professional space which has been set up with specialist equipment, referred to as a “dungeon.” In our advanced technological world sessions may now be conducted remotely by phone, email or online chat.
While it is most common to think of the dominatrix as a woman wielding power over men, many do have female submissives. Also contrary to popular belief, the dominatrix doesn’t always inflict physical pain on the submissive. The domination may be verbal, involving humiliating tasks and servitude.
The dominatrix profession originated as a specialization within brothels, before evolving into its own unique craft. To differentiate women who identify as a dominatrix but do not offer paid services, non-professional dominants are occasionally referred to as a “lifestyle” dominatrix or mistress. It should be noted that the term “lifestyle” to signify BDSM is a contentious topic in the BDSM community and that many true dominatrices view it as unprofessional. Some professional dominatrices are, however, also “lifestyle” dominatrices. That is, in addition to paid sessions with submissive clients they engage in unpaid recreational sessions or may incorporate power exchange within their own private lives and relationships.
The Dominatrix is a female archetype associated with a particular dress that depicts her role as a strong, dominant, sexualized woman. Black leather corsets, thigh-high boots with high stiletto heels, fishnet stockings, and a whip are familiar to most people.
Facts and Fallacies
There are many facts and fallacies about dominatrices that I will attempt to clear up with the help of a few scholars (Brame, Brame, & Jacobs, 2009; Febos, 2010; Winemaker, 2008). They are as follows:
- Many dominatrices work with female submissives.
- Dominatrices usually do not offer oral sex or intercourse
- Many can separate their personal and professional identities
- Professional dominatrices stay emotionally detached and mysterious
- It’s usually more about power and control than sex
- If the dominatrix becomes sexual with a submissive, she loses her power
- Dressing up is about power and elegance
- Men can be doms as well but are not the focus of this article
- Most dominatrices live in major cities
- The average fee is about $200 per session
- Many dominatrices hold graduate degrees
- Some dominatrices receive no personal enjoyment—it’s only about the money
- Most, however, do receive personal enjoyment
- Figuring out and meeting a submissive’s needs is the main high for many dominatrices
- Another high is the level of trust given to them by the submissive
- Reducing the submissive to a state of erotic helplessness is also a high
- There is a some evidence that the dynamic creates a strong physiological bond (i.e., oxytocin)
- Some prefer S/M (i.e., “sexual magic”) to S&M
- Activities vary: not all dominatrices inflict physical pain; some use only verbal humiliation
- Many dominatrices specialize but it’s harder to make a living this way…so they’re flexible
- Many believe the submissive is actually more in charge
- Some dominatrices believe the opposite gender is truly inferior
- Many do not like it when a submissive sets too many conditions–it’s unnatural to the process
- Struggle is appreciated because “bending the will” of the client is a high
- Most dominatrices undergo an apprenticeship referred to as “starting from the bottom”
- Many experiment with being submissive to understand what it feels like for their clients
- Pushing or stretching a submissive’s limits is enjoyed…but scary for the submissive
- “Suspension of disbelief” or keeping it as real as possible is most important to the process
- Slapping a sub in the face is considered by some “the most humiliating act”
- Depersonalization is considered controversial; it is preferred by extreme dominatrices
- Dom or sub preference will depend a lot on one’s nonsexual personality
- Some people can be both dominant and submissive but most prefer one over the other
- There are organizations centered on a dom/sub culture
The origin of a dominatrix may vary, but the most common factors associated with becoming one are:
- Adolescent curiosity
- An association is made between an object of pain (e.g., whip) and excitement/pleasure
- The association continues to be reinforced throughout a person’s life
- Lack of maternal attention
- Lack of maternal affection
- Little to no control, sexual or otherwise
- Sexual abuse
- A need for money
In Defense of Anxiety
Most of the dominatrices I have treated do not present as overtly anxious but their histories confirm a significant loss of power or control in their families of origin. This loss may have come in the form of abuse, sexual or nonsexual, or in the context of feeling powerless or “without a voice” in the family. In some cases, an abusive parent may have inspired a budding dominatrix to fear relinquishing control. Paradoxically, a passive parent who failed to intervene on a child’s behalf may have inadvertently provided the same level of inspiration for that child to grow up and demand the power position in an attempt to avoid further vulnerability.
A Final Thought
Like it or not, the dominatrix is a part of us. The black leather catsuit entered mainstream culture in the 1960s and remains. Strong, independent women capable of kicking a man’s butt like Catwoman or the more contemporary Lara Croft, are viewed as role models by many young girls worldwide. The Women’s Liberation Movement continues to wield influence as more and more females attend college, attain professional status, and/or pursue careers and economic independence. Every movement has its price, but fetishism notwithstanding, perhaps the dominatrix has had more of an impact than most care to believe.
There is relatively little in the academic literature on the cuckoldress and the hot wife. But both forms of female dominance seem to be gaining in popularity as made evident by my clinical practice and the Internet. A recent article in the Huffington Post (2014) entitled, “Cheating Wives on the Rise,” reported that female infidelity has increased over the past two decades. Why? According to Longhi (2011), author of When Women Cheat, “modern men are evolving into beta males, with lower testosterone levels and thereby being conditioned to accept female infidelity as normal, resulting in the biological rewiring of our ideals about monogamous love.” Baker (1996), author of Sperm Wars, contended that men are complicit in female infidelity: the excitement of a man’s female partner having sex with another man biologically compels the man to have sex with his partner in an attempt to compete with the other man’s sperm. In tune with Castleman (2009), I suspect that positive developments such as an increase in educational and economic opportunities for women also play a part. Women who can support themselves are more likely to risk having an affair, and spending more time in the work world affords them the opportunity. Power and control dynamics witnessed in one’s family of origin may also be a causal factor. I suppose it’s better to screw than to be screwed.
In the reverse double-standard of the cuckolding subculture, the cuckoldress (female) tends to take on the sexually dominant role, and the cuckold (male) the submissive role. Cuckolding can range from verbal fantasy between monogamous partners (e.g., the cuckoldress tells the cuckold about her desire for a more virile man) to alternative lifestyles in which the cuckoldress chooses to experience lovers outside her primary relationship. The cuckold is to remain loyal to the cuckoldress; he is dedicated to meeting her needs no matter how humiliating he finds the process. In fact, the more humiliating the greater the high.
The cuckold may not be allowed to participate in “any” sexual act including solo-masturbation, unless given permission by the cuckoldress. The cuckoldress may choose to ensure this by placing her partner’s penis in a chastity belt and wearing the key on a chain around her neck. The men that the cuckoldress chooses for her lovers are referred to as “bulls.” The cuckoldress may have one or two bulls for a long period of time, or as many as she desires, and at her discretion. The cuckold must learn to embrace emasculation and humiliation at the hands of his queen. If the cuckoldress allows the cuckold to directly participate in her sexual experiences it is usually for the purpose of furthering his sexual humiliation. For example, she may force him to have sex with one of her bulls.
The cuckold and cuckoldress usually sign a formalized contract outling the sexual terms of their relationship. However, the cuckoldress is usually granted power and control over other contexts in their lives as well. For example, a cuckoldress I was treating told her partner that she also wanted compete control over their finances. “I can’t play the sexual-power role and dominate you if I don’t feel in control of everything,” she said. “It makes it more real to me.” Many cuckolds also play the role of a domesticated female by agreeing to stay home and take on various household responsibilities. It is not uncommon for the cuckold to have dinner waiting for the cuckoldress following her return from a liaison with one of her bulls. If the cuckold fails to fulfill any of the agreed upon terms of the agreement, the cuckoldress may punish him in any way she deems fit. This may range from a physical beating to an extended period of time in the chastity belt. Some cuckolds are held responsible for failing to keep their partners stocked with men.
Both parties agree to the terms of their specific relationship. If the cuckold feels strongly about a particular issue he can assert his will and insist that it be addressed in the contractual agreement. One cuckold sought treatment with me because his cuckoldress violated their contract: He insisted that his wife stay away from a man he despised, but she still had sex with the man even though she initially agreed to honor her husband’s condition.
Not all cuckolds are men; not all need to be married. But some level of commitment is necessary to enhance the erotic high of the sexual double standard. Cuckolding is often correlated with other fetishes such as exhibitionism and voyeurism. This makes sense since “seeing” and “showing” are key components of the cuckolding practice.
Unlike the dominatrix—which was discussed at length in Part I—cuckolding tends to develop out of a swinging lifestyle. Swingers, or those who engage others outside their relationship for the primary purpose of satisfying their sexual appetites, eventually determine that female sexual dominance is particularly attractive to them. If they already realize they have a proclivity for this delicacy prior to engaging in swinging, the swinging may then serve to open the door for it. While the male partner tends to initiate this dominant/submissive dynamic, there is “at least” an “overt” agreement between both parties to carry it out. I use the term overt because in some cases a more passive partner may agree to participate only to please the other. As mentioned in Part I, some dominatrices live the “lifestyle” or maintain the dominatrix role in their personal lives but most are able to keep their personal and professional lives somewhat distinct. This is what separates the dominatrix from the cuckoldress; the latter plays her role within her primary relationship.
The term cuckold derives from the cuckoo bird. While some of these species are monogamous, others are polyandrous and known to change partners, frequently hoping from nest to nest rather than building their own (Wittenzellner & Wingfield, 2004). An added touch of humiliation—if you allow for a bit of anthropomorphism—is that some breeds may also leave their eggs in the nests of others even going to great lengths to hide this from the original nest builder (Stokke, Roskaft, & Moller, 2006). This is similar to the real time cuckold concept of wife breeding or allowing another man to impregnate one’s wife and to accept raising the child as one’s own.
In Western cultures, cuckolds have sometimes been described as “wearing horns.” This alludes to stags who give up their mates when they are defeated by another male. One of the requirements of a modern-day cuckoldress is that her bull possess a penis larger than her primary partner—this adds to the humiliation. As such, cuckolding is considered a BDSM fetish.
Cuckolding can also be mixed with other non-monogamous relationship arrangements with which it has substantial overlap such as swinging, open relationships, and polyamory. Again, it is distinguished from these concepts in that cuckold’s thrill in their partner’s acts is specifically masochistic. There are many myths about the cuckold/cuckoldress couple; the following list may clarify some of them:
Facts and Fallacies
- Destination Identity: Cuckolding usually emerges from swinging
- The cuckoldress is usually never out of control
- The cuckoldress can appear conservative
- Many are not sexually satisfied with their primary partners
- The cuckoldress wants better sex, not necessarily more sex
- The cuckolding act is a kin to claiming female sexual power
- The cuckoldress tends to carefully select her bulls
- She can be submissive to her bulls (i.e., lovers)
- She can have one or more bulls for a long period of time.
- The is a clear sexual double-standard in her marriage
- Female submissives do exist (i.e., cuckqueans)
- The cuckoldress projects sexual inadequacy back onto her partner
- The male is called a cuckold or cuckoldboy
- The cuckoldress is primarily in control but she and her mate agree on limits
- The couple usually sign a contract
- Many cuckoldresses control all aspects of their relationships, including finances
- Many restrict their male partner’s sexual capacity with a chastity belt
- The cuckoldress may allow her male counterpart to masturbate, but usually infrequently
- The cuckoldress may engage her cuckold to participate in her sexual activities with a bull but always in a limited and humiliating way
- Cuckolds may be required to play a feminine role at home (e.g., do the dishes while the cuckoldress gets ready for her date with a bull).
- Cuckolds are oftentimes powerful men outside their relationships with cuckoldresses
- Variant of masochism: The cuckold derives pleasure from being humiliated; the cuckoldress from humiliating.
- Freud (1922): Cuckold fetishism is the eroticization of the fears of infidelity, and of failure in the male’s competition for procreation and the affection of females.
- Baumeister (1989), in his book Masochism and the Self: A form of escapism in otherwise mentally healthy people. Cuckold fetishists are relieving themselves of the stress of the burden of their social role and escaping into a simpler, less-expansive position.
- Freud and Baumeister agreed that the cuckold fetishist seeks pleasure both from the act of being humiliated and by giving pleasure to his lover(s). But cuckolding can be summed up psychologically as “distributing sexual humiliation to the cuckold.”
- Cuckolds and cuckoldress may have experienced abuse, sexual and otherwise as children
- Many have issues with control and power
- Associations were usually made in their youth between control, humiliation, and the erotica
THE HOT WIFE
There seems to be even less material in the professional literature on the hot wife. And while many use the term interchangeably with cuckoldress, others such as Hathaway (2013), author of The Education of a Cuckold, take issue with this. For example, the author believes that the hot wife is more of a projection of her husband’s “slutty desires” in a woman than is the cuckoldress. And unlike the dominatrix and the cuckoldress, the hot wife is more about sex, and less about power and control. She may also be much more sexually active, more sexually flamboyant or provocative, and more sexually aggressive in her pursuit of men. For example, while a cuckoldress or a well compartmentalized dominatrix may look and dress like the girl next door in public, the hot wife tends to always be on the make, dressing as sexually alluring as possible—many are exhibitionistic. The hot wife also tends to be less discriminating in her choice of men than are dominatrices and cuckoldresses. And the hot wife may take more risks to quench her sexual appetite, oftentimes putting herself and her primary partner in danger.
Emanating from the swinger’s lifestyle, the hot wife is basically a married female swinger or a wife who has sex with men other than her husband with her husband’s permission. The hot wife is considered by many to be hypersexual and in some camps, a sex addict. Clearly she is less controlled than her fellow female dominants. She is much more liberal in her sexual control of her primary partner and may allow him to have frequent sex and to even join her in orgies or threesomes. She is far less likely than the cuckoldress to require her partner to wear a chastity belt. The hot wife is not as concerned with emasculating him as she is in reaching her sexual goals. While the hot wife and her primary partner will attempt to outline certain terms of their dynamic, formalized contracts are not considered as necessary as they are to the cuckold/cuckoldress couple. Let’s examine some of the characteristics of hot wives:
Facts and Fallacies
- The hot wife desires more sex, not necessarily better sex
- The hot wife is at times, out of control
- Hit wives dress the part
- Power is not major focus for the hot wife
- The hot wife is usually on the make
- The hot wife has her mate’s permission to sexually engage other men
- The hot wife might not be very discriminating in choosing her lovers
- She is primarily interested in sexual freedom
- She may have sex with her husband or primary partner frequently
- She may have sex with him infrequently
- She may include him directly in her sexual activities
- Not contract is necessary
- A hot wife can evolve into a cuckoldress, but a cuckoldress will almost never become a hot wife
- There’s less integrity in the hot wife’s process.
- There is often little empathy
- The hot wife operates from a more primitive level
- The hot wife may also be prone to be engage in other addictive behaviors, even substance abuse
- Usually develops out of the swinging lifestyle
- Closer to sexual addiction
- Related to humiliation
- Possible bipolar disorder
- Possible narcissistic, histrionic traits and tendencies
- Exhibitionistic qualities
- Oftentimes substance use/abuse is involved in her activities
- Sexual abuse
- Sex and self-esteem correlated
- Power and control through her sexual prowess more so than male domination
on the sexually passive men who strongly desire dominant women. As I’ve told my graduate and postgraduate students time and again, while this material may turn you off, the dynamics do exist and therefore should be taken seriously by anyone wishing to make treating couples a life’s work.
This is the third of a three part series of articles written on sexually dominant women and sexually passive men. And while most of the responses thus far have been favorable, it is clear that some men have taken exception to the subject matter. Most of these critics are of the belief that there is an institutional emasculation of men taking place in our society and that my articles contribute to this discrimination. I can assure you—the reader—that I do my best to present “what is,” rather than try to persuade you of “what should be.” I do at times warn about the potential pitfalls of certain behaviors, but my predominant objective is to present difference in all contexts; to inform you of the variety of characters who along with us all, participate in the daily theatrics of life. To perceive their behaviors as good or bad is left to you. I only ask that you accept their existence.
I also wish to make clear that while some sexually passive men might be of a masochistic nature, they are not necessarily “out of control.” On the contrary, the literature has found that men usually initiate this type of lifestyle, and try hard to convince their female counterparts to join them. Why? Because the humiliation they get is worth the arousal it brings. Remember, men seek out the services of dominatrices and gladly pay hefty sums for the opportunity to be sexually humiliated. Some male cuckolds actively solicit men to have sex with their wives and enjoy watching the action.
A related point is that every couple’s therapist knows that relational success is about the matchup. Many sexologists agree that a fetish is extremely difficult, if not impossible to completely eradicate. However, Money and Lamacz (1989) claimed that someone with exhibitionistic tendencies will have a better chance at relational success if married to someone with voyeuristic tendencies. Hence, a male cuckold will have a better chance at relational success if partnered with a sexually dominant female.
A third point that runs counter to the notion of institutional emasculation is the fact that some men actually punish their partners for refusing to take a sexually dominant role. For example, a couple presented for marital therapy because the wife had decided that she no longer wanted to practice BDSM in her marriage. Her husband preferred that she tie him down and whip him just prior to having sex. It’s easy to label this man a passive masochist. However, even to the utter dismay of his wife, he soon retaliated by cheating on her for abdicating her sexually dominant role. Is this man truly a martyr worthy of our sympathy? In his book Masochism in Modern Man, Theodore Reik (1944) claimed that men who engaged in punishing behavior did so as a way to “achieve a sense of victory through defeat.”
Some clinicians argue that even if a man possesses a strong desire to be sexually dominated in the ways described in this series, he should still be considered damaged or perverted; a perspective steeped in history. Kraft-Ebing (1886/1965) found male masochism to be a congenital disorder. Freud (1906/1953) contended it was a conversion of guilty feelings for the wish to dominate. Stoller (1975) found it to stem from early maternal humiliation. And Abrams and Stefan (2012) saw it as an adaptive response to abuse: anger and shame are integral to sexual arousal.
From the experience generated by my clinical practice, I’ve found that men who are attracted to sexual humiliation attempt to give their female partners to other men as a way to make up—in real time–for taking their mothers from their fathers as children. That is, when young these men were held too close to their mothers thereby supplanting their fathers. While this can produce erotica—being “the man of the house”—it can also lead to guilt for emasculating their fathers. As adults these men pay for their sins by giving their wives or girlfriends back to the deserved “real men” (i.e., their fathers).
Until this is revealed to a man wishing to make unconscious amends, there’s less of a chance this behavior can be controlled to the extent that it won’t completely ruin an adult relationship. The concept of control is vital because in reality the man doesn’t really want to lose his partner, just as he never wanted to suffer the complete loss of his mother as a child. Rather, he only wishes to “lend her out.” A psychic compromise, if you will. This is the somewhat paradoxical answer to why a man who has such a powerful desire to allow his wife to have sex with other men reacts so strongly if he in fact loses her to another man. It’s a compromise to the internal dilemma of apologizing for something he at least partially enjoyed. In this case: the dilemma of keeping or giving up one’s partner. And with any compromise, it’s far from perfect.