Help me figure out why I seem to predominantly attract sexually submissive guys.
March 12, 2008 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out why I seem to predominantly attract sexually submissive guys.

I have a more or less set type, young feminine guys, but I meet guys from very different backgrounds, from professionals to school drop-outs, with different looks and characteristics. What puzzles me is that despite that variety, a very high percentage of them turns out to be very submissive in bed. When I say high percentage, I mean about 4 out of 5. It’s always been something that reveals itself in flagrante, so it’s not like I specifically seek out guys that communicate that as their preference in an ad, at the club, etc. The degree of sexual submission also varies substantially, and in my experience has been all over the road – from low (holding down, hair pulling) to medium (spanking, slapping) to pretty serious (being bound, rape fantasies). They also tend to be not very submissive outside the bedroom.

I am dominant in bed but that to me just means control and overpowering resistance. More specifically, I am talking about sort of rough physical control, physically directing the action, holding someone down, and so on. I don’t like submission qua submission because by definition, there is no resistance factor, and I feel almost awkward knowing that I can simply tell the person to do anything and they will do it. I also don’t like BDSM because the ritualistic aspects of it seem to take away spontaneity, and the formalized gear seems very depersonalizing. I enjoy stuff like spanking and hair pulling, not because it causes the other person some discomfort, but because it makes me feel more in control of the situation. Inflicting pain by itself is not at all appealing to me. I've never experienced or even contemplated being the submissive person. That has no instinctive appeal to me.

My main questions are, 1. Why do I attract submissive guys?, 2. What, if anything, does that say about my personality?, and 3. What nature / nurture factors may contribute to someone being naturally dominant or naturally submissive?

To the extent that physical characteristics may have something to do with it, I am gay, male, 26, 6’0, 180, exclusively top, good-looking in a sort of all-American way, muscular, straight-acting but wouldn’t call myself macho. As far as non-physical characteristics: I’m very confident in myself and my abilities in sort of a quiet, understated way (not arrogant), introverted, self-deprecating humor, rational to a fault in my emotions, very good at having an innate anticipation of what the other person wants to hear (ironically, kind of a people-pleaser). More specific to control, etc.: I am never the first person to jump in and take charge, and I usually remain content to let someone else take the lead unless I believe they are going off-course, at which point I take over. Socially, I am more of an observer than an active participant. At the same time, I am used to people deferring to me in areas that I believe are within my expertise. When I meet people in clubs or bars, I never try to consciously project or exert some authority over them, don't ask them about their sexual preferences, and don't consciously try to establish myself as the dominant person in the conversation.

Thanks to everyone for any ideas, hypotheses, suggestions. If you have any questions, I’m at
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

Well, I was overflowing with theories until I read that you're a gay male. I'm a (more-or-less) straight female, so YMMV. I find submissive guys all over the place and I think it's because I tend to be generally assertive. Plus, submissive men looking for women are a dime a dozen.

However, I've known many (mostly straight) male tops, and they generally fit your personality profile in your last paragraph to a T. You sound like you don't pressure people in social situations, and are probably approachable but slightly intimidating. This is extremely exciting to most submissives I've known. The lowkey approach allows them to trust you; if you were overbearing in conversation, they might back away.

You sound like you're not quite comfortable with your desires, as if there's something wrong with you for wanting to be in control. I've been there, and it can be something of a challenge to rein in my fantasies. I've wondered if there is something wrong with me. Then I read about REAL sadists in newspapers (the type who kidnap and rape) and I'm reassured that I am nothing, NOTHING like them. I firmly believe that in any couple, one person is usually in control, and that this works best (assuming both consent to it). Most of nature has some sort of hierarchical structure - i.e., wolf packs. You are an alpha dog, and probably the most responsible kind, one that has been recognized by others as such and has not just arrogantly asserted his control over everyone around him.

BDSM is like a cafeteria - you don't have to take a bite of everything, and you can try things here and there. Not everything is ritualized or depersonalized. If you're ending up in bed with guys who don't really suit you, then you need to have a lot more conversation beforehand. I've found that a good "test" to gauge submissiveness is to give them some small task to do - fetching your drink, lighting your cigarette. If their eyes light up at being asked, and they do it without hesitation, they're probably going to be submissive. If they pause or look at you funny, they're not into it, and you can always back off as if you were just joking. (I doubt this is exactly a taboo topic in a gay bar, though.)

You sound like you want someone who'll give you a bit of a challenge in bed. This should be communicated beforehand, or you'll end up with someone who just lays there. I've found it effective to make it into a contest. Of course, being female and smaller than my partner, he eventually has to let me win, but presumably you're a bit more evenly matched.
posted by desjardins at 5:46 PM on March 12, 2008 [4 favorites]

1. Why do I attract submissive guys?

You're looking for submissive guys. Submissive guys are looking for guys like you. Like water running downhill and magnets on fridge doors, people tend to gravitate to each others desires.

2. What, if anything, does that say about my personality?

You're a top.

3. What nature / nurture factors may contribute to someone being naturally dominant or naturally submissive?

Testosterone levels? I'm not sure there are conclusive answers on this one.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:49 PM on March 12, 2008

My guess is, and it sounds like you already sort of get this, people just pick up on your preference for being dominant and respond to it. It's part of who you are, and it must certainly draw people who prefer a dominant partner, so they are going to flirt with you and try to get your attention.

Perhaps you could try being more aggressive in seeking out partners. Don't wait for guys to hit on you and then pick your favorite, go after someone who attracts you.

If you are already doing that, then maybe there's more going on, but this question seems to be about why other people are the way they are rather than why you're the way you are.


1. Because you're a dominant male. You take control. This has nothing to do with BDSM.
2. You're a dominant male.
3. Forgive me, I can't tackle this.
posted by prefpara at 5:57 PM on March 12, 2008

By the way, you probably think you're a nice guy, and that being dominant is somehow in conflict with that. To the contrary, your partners think you're being very, very nice. Dominant does not equal asshole. You won't magically become some overbearing jackass just because you like to pin guys down and...

I'm sorry, I need pictures before I can pontificate further.
posted by desjardins at 6:44 PM on March 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

Just to bring up the default Loveline answer for the sake of self-awareness, could these dynamics have anything to do with parental relationships?
posted by XMLicious at 7:09 PM on March 12, 2008

This has very little to do with your personality. Perform a simple experiment by visiting your relevant Craigslist and picking the ads for gay males. Count the number of guys who are in that vague cloud of subby (bottomy and/or crossdressy and/or into being tied up ...). Now, count the guys who are on the other side, leaving the versatiles for the middle. For extra data points, go to, pick out the appropriate gender and orientation, and then do the same.

Results: There's a preponderance of subby types amongst gay/bi/men-who-have-sex-with-men (may I please stop making various lawyer, PC-buffering disclaimers now?), as compared to the more toppish types.

It's not you, it's them.
posted by adipocere at 8:35 PM on March 12, 2008

could these dynamics have anything to do with parental relationships?

In my case, virtually every couple in my family is female-dominated. While I certainly view men as equal, a household where the woman "wears the pants" seems very natural to me.
posted by desjardins at 9:57 PM on March 12, 2008

My current read is a book called "A general theory of love" by three MD/psychiatrists.

It examines one of my favorite themes... "Why do we choose who we choose and why do we keep choosing them?"

You might find some parts of it useful. I won't go into detail, but the books is a good one, and I'd suggest it to anyone with similar questions, gay or straight.
posted by FauxScot at 5:28 AM on March 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think that this is one of those things where people self-select, often without knowing it. I'm not sure how it happens, but there are enough signals and hints and clues that I have never gotten to the point of being in bed with someone and been shocked that they were dominant instead of submissive or whatever. (Plenty of other surprises, just not that one.)

I mean, if you were to just look at the women I've dated, you would think that there are no sexually dominant women in the world. I don't attract them, they must not attract me, they don't show up in my bed. I have friends who are dominant women, so I know there are a lot of them around and I think they are great, but when it comes down to flirting and kissing and all that, the women I connect with have a different thing going on.

Really, I think that by the time you have finished having a 15 minute chat over coffee, you have some sort of gut sense of whether there is some level of basic compatibility with this person who was an almost perfect stranger a few minutes before. It's how they hold themselves, and how they smell, and how they look at you. Questions of dominance or submission are just a tiny part of all the things we are assessing when we are meeting someone; we have evolved to be quite good at making instant assessments (e.g.: threat or not?) with imperfect information; applying that to your sex life is a pretty basic thing.
posted by Forktine at 7:05 AM on March 13, 2008

Count the number of guys who are in that vague cloud of subby (bottomy and/or crossdressy and/or into being tied up ...). Now, count the guys who are on the other side, leaving the versatiles for the middle.

These are not things that should be conflated: being a top or bottom (in the gay what-goes-where sense) has nothing to do with being dom or sub (in the taking-control/power-relations sense). I think the OP is asking why he hasn't found--for (unfortunate) lack of a better word--a "bossy bottom," or someone who's willing to grapple with him.'s tough. You may, for experiment's sake, just want to put it out there earlier in the conversation (before you get to bed--maybe not upon first meeting) and see if, with proper warning, you find someone who's willing to get into it the way you like.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:38 AM on March 13, 2008

What desjardins said. Every word of it. I might add that I am also female, but identify very strongly with how you describe yourself. I'm no longer on the market, but when I was, I could have written those first 2 paragraphs of yours, to the letter.

I think the key to remember is that Dom/Sub isn't necessarily a black/white equation. I also have little tolerance for the elaborate rituals of BDSM; unfortunately they just seem staged and silly to me. What I have always been turned on by is smooth, femme guys who let me take the driver's seat. Ditto the 'alpha' comment made above, I think that makes a whole lot of sense and I don't think it's a gender or GBLT specific thing, even. It took me a long while to be okay with this. I think it helps now that I'm 40 and much more comfortable within my skin now than I was at 22.

As with any relationship question, you can find trends and maybe get some advise with other people's experience, but I think this sort of thing is highly, highly individual, and you'll eventually discover the right fit with the right partner. When that happens, you'll know it and you'll quit trying to figure out what's 'right vs. wrong' about the sexual side of things.

To answer your question directly, in my experience (both in my own relationships and in being exposed to those of my gay male friends who 'identify' similarly to me) I believe most subs tend to gravitate towards confident, self-assured people, which is what you have basically described yourself as. I don't think it has to be anymore complicated than that.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:40 AM on March 13, 2008

I'm a straight male switch and, until I read the part about you being a guy, you definitely sounded like someone I'd email if I read your profile on Women who enjoy being in control are, to me, inherently attractive. Once, at a BDSM gathering, I met a submissive woman who, for some reason, I read as a top. (Leather radar is so much more complicated than gaydar). I couldn't figure out why until she told me that she was a teacher. She was used to telling people what to do and I was able to sense that.

Then, there was this woman - a switch - who kept hitting on me, even though I was wary of her. In fact, the situation really bordered on harrassment. Until one day she sort of forced me into a pair of leather cuffs and ... well, let's just say that she did a few other things that I also enjoyed. Once I began to perceive her as being in control, I couldn't help being attracted to her. (Then the bitch suckered me into cleaning her house.)

As for wanting the bottom to fight back... well, it's not that it's un-domly. Rather, I'd say it's a rare and, in certain quarters, eagerly sought after trait. For most tops, subs who want to struggle or play the smart ass are just too damn much work. I can tell you that I've yet to find a woman who does that sort of thing and, believe me, I've been looking.
posted by Clay201 at 1:45 AM on March 14, 2008

Leather radar is so much more complicated than gaydar.

Tell me about it. I can't tell at all who is dom or sub at munches unless they do something obvious like kneeling. When I was single and looking, I just went with the assumption that any cute guy was a sub until I found out otherwise. Oddly enough, that led to some very hot nights with tops.
posted by desjardins at 11:22 AM on March 15, 2008

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