Why is Kink Porn So Sub-Centric?

My first exposures to kink took the form of porn, like they do with some many people. Probably my first foray into kink was reading John Preston’s seminal (no pun intended, I swear!) novel Mr Benson in my mid-20s. I enjoyed it a great deal (in more ways than one). Over the years, I read a variety of erotica and watched some porn with power-exchange themes, and often found myself a bit troubled by how much I responded to it. When I eventually realized that I was kinky, I began actively seeking out kink erotic and porn videos. It took me a while to realize that almost everything I was finding was sub-centric.

What do I mean by ‘sub-centric’? The overwhelming majority of kink porn (either written or filmed) focuses on the sub’s experiences. In kink novels, there is often a good deal of exploration of the sub’s fears and doubts as well as his or her pleasure and desires. The typical narrative follows the sub’s journey from discovering their submissive desires to a sexual awakening at the hands of a powerful and experienced dom whose pleasure and desires are nominally the center of the story but who is in fact really just a vehicle for exploring the sub’s pleasure and desires.

In the videos, the focus is on the sub’s pleasures. Videos in which multiple doms use a single sub are common, far more common than those in which multiple subs attend a single dom. Doms in videos often spend time doing things that are nominally presented as cruel but which actually cater to common submissive desires–subs are pissed on, made to dress in women’s clothes, have multiple guys bukkake them, are kept locked in cages until they are taken out for use, and so on.

The best example of this is fucking machines. There are lots of videos in which doms fuck a sub with a fucking machine or a dildo on a broom handle. But from my dominant position, I have no idea why a dom would want to do this. Why would I want to shove a dildo up my slave’s ass when I could be shoving my cock up his ass? If being dominant is about the dom prioritizing his pleasure, then kink videos ought to be filled with sex acts that center around the dom’s pleasure, and yet the videos are filled with sex acts that center around the sub’s pleasure.

The reason for this, of course, is that treating a sub roughly is not actually cruel at all. Submissives generally derive great pleasure from such ‘abuse’. And to be sure, they ought to. Submission should be enjoyable for the sub in some fashion. If it’s not, why do it? (Obviously not every sex act a sub is involved in is pleasurable in an immediately sexual sense; often the sub’s pleasure comes from knowing that he’s been obedient when he didn’t enjoy it.) But I think it’s clear that kink porn is primarily written and filmed to appeal to subs and to gratify their fantasies.

There’s nothing wrong with this material; its popularity demonstrates there are a lot of eager submissives out there who want to read and write such stories and watch such videos. And the market is clearly responding to that by offering them a wealth of material to choose from. But where, I kept finding myself asking, are the stories about the doms? Where are the novels that explore power exchange from the dominant’s point of view, looking at their fears and doubts and seeking to understand their motivations?

The sub-centric story usually objectifies the dominant as all-powerful both in the sub’s mind and in the reality of the story. He’s usually rich, always handsome, and inevitably confident in who he is and what he wants. But this tendency to tell the story from the sub’s point of view can mislead novice doms, who are encouraged to think that they must know everything, be good at every form of play, never experience uncertainty, and never express any form of emotion other than the harsh demands doms make during play. Such a high standard is extremely intimidating, and may well discourage kinksters from exploring their dominant desires because they feel incapable of living up to the image of the dominant they see in novels.

There is famously an imbalance between doms and subs in the kink community. It is often said that for every dom, there are ten subs. There’s no easy way to verify that statistic, but my personal experience would seem to roughly support it, and I hear the same from many others on both sides of the slash. One possible reason for the imbalance may be encouraged by the porn we consume. When I read Mr Benson, it helped me recognize a certain desire to submit to someone, and for more than a decade, when I fantasized about power exchange, it was mostly from the submissive position. It took a profound personal experience for me to realize that I was actually far more interested in being in control than being controlled and to notice that a desire for control was a common theme in many areas of my life. I think the reason for that is that so little porn centers the dominant experience as normative; with the exception of the epilogue to Mr Benson (which doesn’t include any sex), I’d never even read or seen any porn that explored what doms think and want. If it was hard for me to recognize my dominance, I’m betting there are a lot of other inchoate doms who never get a chance to connect to their dominant side, or take a long time to do so and so simply gravitate toward being submissive because that’s where the pleasure is.

That’s why I write dom-centric porn. It’s what I know, it’s what I want to explore, and it’s what I fantasize about. I want to write dom-centered material because I want to empower my fellow dominants and would-be doms and give voice to our experiences, our fears, our needs, and our fantasies.

That’s why my novel Leather God Descending is about one dom’s journey. I didn’t intend it this way when I started writing it, but early in the novel, Adam is depressed, suffering a crisis of confidence caused by the end of his relationship with his previous slave. Over the course of the story he gradually regains his confidence, but to get there he has to grapple with fears that he’s not good enough, that he tends to screw up his relationships, that if he shows subs his real desires they will run away. These are feelings that I myself have wrestled with, so I’m pretty sure other doms have wrestled with them as well.

As I see it, Dom-centric porn gives us doms permission to be human beings. I’d love to be Aristotle Benson, filled with boundless confidence and utterly certain of his own rightful superiority, but I doubt anyone ever actually has been.

What say you, fellow doms? Are my perceptions accurate?

2 thoughts on “Why is Kink Porn So Sub-Centric?

  1. I think part of it is that in mainstream society right now it’s far more acceptable to be victim than aggressor, and our SM can’t help but reflect on some level what is going on in the dominant culture. No one sees the inner conflict and struggles of the Dom as sympathetic. As a second theory, what the top does is usually very visible, so the story is interesting even if you don’t go beneath the surface of the top. Most of the work of the bottom is internal, so bottoms are pretty boring if you don’t go beneath the surface at all.
    Thanks for the thoughtful essay. I look forward to reading your book.
    BTW, some of Thom Magister’s stories (I think even most of them) are top-centric.

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    1. Good points, Trooks. I’ll have to think more about your point about victimhood—I’m not sure most subs are presented that way in fiction, although in an individual scene it’s hot. But you’re right that understand why doms want what we want is a harder issue.

      That point about visibility is an interesting one. My first thought is that subs do as much visible work—literally slave chores and the like—as doms, who are often off-stage in these novels.

      I’ve got one collection of Thom Magister’s stories. Yes, some of them are top-centric. He offers a wonderful window into 50s/60s era leather. I learned a lot from them.

      I hope you like Leather God Descending. Feel free to offer your thoughts once you’ve read it.

      Like

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