Top/Bottom Genders

Posted: February 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

Kimmel gives a radical social construction view of sex/gender. In a sense he says that the social behaviors that we stereotype as masculine and feminine are due to gender inequality built into institutional roles. To put it crudely, stereotype husband=dominance and stereotype wife=submission. So-called male communication styles are actually the dominance communication styles of Father, husband, and boss. He states that males and females in submissive roles use very similar communication. The dominant style is monosylabic grunts, and the submissive style is more expressive and tries to reach out and make itself understood. When you are in a position of dominance the status quo is fine. You do not need to to talk and make yourself understood. When your position is weaker suddenly language and communication is your ally. An interesting question is the role of communication skill. Upper class, straight, white, American males may be in the dom gender so often that they do not need to learn to communicate (think of George W. Bush). Whereas a empathic female boss may use the masculine language of power and dominance on a regular basis, but she has the communications skills to fall back on when the language of dominance is not working. To stretch the point, we could speak of the Top gender and the Botom gender which changes from situated context to situated context. This has obvious implications for the relationship of gender, BDSM and Butch/Femme. There is a perception of Butches as Top and Femmes as Bottom, though this is not always the case it is still interesting as a perception. In FemaleTop and MaleBottom role play, forced feminization and crossdressing is very common. Long before I identified as trans and femme I identified as bottom. Gender role play haunts the whole leather scene, and BDSM concepts like top and bottom infuse the queer scene. I feel that the idea of hegemonic masculine gender being linked to (attempted) dominance helps to situate non-dominant gender behavior. If Top/Bottom says something fundamental about gender, it is because gender is relational. It is performed as a (failing) relation between two people. TopBottom genders can be played out as mastery/subservience but mastery/rebellion is also possible or a Deleuzian relation of attempted mastery/nomadism. So, gender says something about strategies of power and resistance. How does this relate to me? My masculine gender was a dominated or subservient masculinity which had a lot to do with passing as Masculine in public and resisting and sabotaging it in private. In my attempt to explore postmasculinity I am exploring the strategy of deserting the imperative to be ‘male’ Dom without interpreting this as a need to become ‘female’. I am searching for nomadic genders which undermine the strategies of power.

  1. knownever says:

    I assume you’re talking about Michael Kimmel? I’ve never read this part of his work (but I’ve heard a bit about it), and, while it doesn’t fit perfectly, it does highlight the issues of power at play in gender relationships in a less heavy-handed way than men have power and women don’t. The links you make to top/bottom in a bdsm sense fit perfectly because as a professor of mine once said, “power is always what makes things spicy whether you acknowledge it or not”
    ….oops didn’t check the date on this post till I typed this out, but hope it was worth saying anyway.

  2. Jasper Gregory says:

    Thanks for resurrecting this post. I brought the issues of gender and BDSM up again in this post a couple of days ago.
    The desire to be sexually dominated is central to the desire of many of us who also identify as feminine. The Heteronormative and Mainstream Feminist Publics have no venue for such a loaded subject.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s