On Gynocentrism and the “Male Gaze” in Erotic Fiction and Pornography

Yesterday I was in conversation with a domme about putting some work towards a project of hers, one that in principal I support, which revolves around providing erotic artwork and literature that caters specifically to the pleasures of dominant women.  It’s a noble effort, and one that I am considering being involved with, but our conversation raised some interesting points that I think are worth exploring further here.

She intoned that such a great deal of femdom’s representation is inauthentic, a sentiment with which I heartily agree, and she expressed the need for works that would address her desires and pleasures as a dominant heterosexual woman, specifically things that would focus on her foil and counterpart, the male sub.  She indicated that the audience she represents was deeply underserved at the moment, often relying on gay romance and porn because stories from within her genre have so little to offer in terms of this perspective.

Now of course, naturally, I want the femdoms of the world to have just as much access to stimulating content that arouses and enthralls them as anyone else, and I agree that too often so-called “female dominance” is just a subcategory of selfish male fantasy.  In short, most of the Philistines believe that femdom means “a woman’s gonna tie you down and give you the best blowjob of your life whether you like it or not, Mister!” I’m certainly aware too, and painfully so, that most of the consideration given to femdom is some contorted caricature that too closely parallels things like schoolgirl and naughty nurse fantasies.  But what she indicated was to blame for this unfortunate circumstance was the unconscious, conditioned artistic reliance on the “male gaze”, and that is where I think our ideas and beliefs parted company.

By way of a definition, the “male gaze” is a feminist philosophical concept, first put forward in the mid-70s, that contends that female representation in arts and literature is inherently objectified, inherently contorted, and that its entire exploration stems from a prevailing masculine narcissism on the part of its creators.

It’s a fair point that deserves consideration, and it’s a functional analysis, yes, but in my estimation it’s one that is ultimatly inadequate to accurately inform one’s perspective on this topic, and I would like to address some of the things the idea carries with it:

For starters, speaking as a man with what I believe is a refined and sophisticated humanistic consideration for the opposite sex, I object to the notion that a man’s perspective on women is categorically some million candlestrength spotlight that immediately subjects her to a harsh, glaring, and specifically unnatural appraisal.  It’s just not something I’m willing to be accused of.  It implies that my perspective is inherently incapable of apprehending reality in a realistic way and it does so solely on the basis of my gender. That’s sexist and it’s wrong.

Secondly, I reject the idea that as a man my prurient interests are defined by exaggeration, bombast, and hyperbole.  There’s a sense in these discussions, tacitly accepted by all, that somehow because of my gender I am drawn inexplicably to surreal misrepresentation and overstatement.  That implies that my being is inherently incapable of relating to reality in a realistic way, and that my senses and powers of reflection are too dull and befuddled to appreciate things as they are.  I find that an abhorrent insinuation, and I’m afraid I must point out againt that such is levied against me because of my sex.

In both of these points we’re not talking about the bizarre irregularities of culture, we’re talking about my systemic dysfunction as a human being, and that needs to be stamped out immediately.

But to turn back toward the point this domme was making, the idea that most of the work out there focuses one-sidedly on the female half of femdom, the first thing I have to take issue with is the idea that it’s society driven and that it’s some version of conditioned, unconcsious bias.

The things I write aren’t uncritical streams of masturbatory consciousness that serve as some Freudian release. I’m not playing out little scenes with paper dolls in my mind. I don’t emulate what I see in other media, I don’t write out tropes, and even for the cheap smut peddler that I am I’m not a hack. I write from my own abundant and unrelenting fascination with women and with female sexuality. I don’t write stick figures or sock puppets, and I don’t just write a story and tack on incidental features to give it color. I base my characters on real women I have known or amalgams thereof. I try to give my scenes, scenarios, and interactions verisimilitude based on the specific personalities and attitudes of those women, and I listen to my characters far more often than I speak for them.

And yes, those characters and the things I describe and meditate upon are unapologetically female.

You can say it’s just a function of my staunchly heterosexual male perspective, and perhaps that’s true, but I am, for better or worse, utterly enamored of the female human being– not just physically but metaphysically, psychologically, and spiritually. I truly believe there’s something special about women that men categorically do not possess, and it’s not something that comes from having been exposed to glamorous photos and advertising, it isn’t something I’ve been led to believe by lies and half-truths I’ve been told. It’s something innate that relates to my innermost values and beliefs.

And on the question of values, as a creator I’m also faced specifically with the question of what I believe is worth glorifying and enunciating, what is worth portraying and celebrating, and the question is important to me not just in terms of the characters I create but of what they do and how they do it because of the genre in which I write, and that is something I take very seriously. That is how I address the inauthenticity of kink and fetish literature– I do my best to write from my highest and most authentic place, and that involves being true both to my earnest fascination with women and to my sincere appreciation for the female touch and the female influence on what takes place in my stories.

Which leads me to the other criticism of gynocentricity: that it diminishes the male role to such an extent that any old sleazebag can insert themselves into the story, and more seriously that it allows a male passivity which is not only burdensome but actually lazy and exploitative. This is something I take seriously as well, and I don’t believe that any erotic effort should be produced with the kind of boys’ club, big-eyed spectator mentality that characterizes so much of what’s out there today.

For me the role of the narrator in my stories, the vessel of the “gaze” from which I write (whether it’s 1st or 3rd person and regardless of the perspective), is to observe, describe, and most importantly articulate not just what happens but how it happens, and the art of that is deciding how best to get that across. It isn’t the same as just pointing a lens at something and saying “here it is”. Building tone, giving emphasis, changing focus, all of these are specific to the way my narrator thinks and experiences and that is what personalizes the story. In other words, what’s specific to the male in my stories (whether or not they are actually a character) isn’t the minutiae of how they are involved in the story itself, it’s the minutiae of the way they tell it and how the experience relates to them.

I understand why that might not be such a thrill for a reader whose interests and pleasure lies in the observation of the observer I’m describing, and I sympathize, but I refuse to accept the idea that the self-abdicating nature of my gaze somehow removes myself, the universal male of my stories, from the equation.

And to put it simply, I find it hard to believe that the Philistines who want a cheap, easy thrill over some garish, inarticulate presentation find themselves at home reading my stuff. I’d like to imagine that they get bored and move on to the rest of the crap made for them.

In the end, I may or may not write something for the so-called “femdom gaze”. If I can find something in my consciousness that I can offer to the musings and thrill of dominant women who want stories focused on submissives and the experience of submission then I’ll be most pleased to facilitate that. But if I never venture in that direction I hope they’ll find something worthwhile in what I do produce, and I hope they’ll get the kicks they want from someone who is more destined to write it.


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