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Men and "Submissive" Women: Exploding the Myth

Men date women, arguably, who reflect themselves and satisfy their ideals of what a woman should be. That is why it is fairly common for men to date women with the same educational or professional background, for instance. It goes without saying that smart men find smart women attractive or that employed men would also want their partner to be professionally employed as well. Imitation is the best form of flattery so it is not surprising that men seek women who are mirror images of themselves. Men also seek women who fulfill their ideals of what an ideal woman should be. This decision is not solely determined by one's personal inclinations but is also determined by one's environment -- what sort of gender messages was prevalent in society, for instance, and by social ideologies. Thus, these two aspects frame the process of deliberation in choosing a partner. Arguably, the reason why men might choose "submissive" women is tied up in how men perceive themselves and how they interpret social ideologies of gender roles.

Submissive Woman

Some men are caught up in and perhaps even devoted to the myth of the submissive woman. It should be stated from the beginning that the image of a submissive woman is largely created by one's imagination. She is created at the moment that a man conceptualizes the woman as the "second sex." She cannot exist outside of his imagination. That is why some men may find themselves vigilantly reaffirming the myth by treating his partner in a certain way that reassures him that she is, indeed, his object to own. Men are constantly devising new strategies to keep women in their place. He tries every attempt to align her perception of herself with his own ideals of what a woman should be. To be sure, it is not easy to keep this myth alive and man must make every effort to ensure that the woman does not break free his grasp.

This myth, despite its elusiveness, has very real aspects. Men who worship this myth believe that a woman should submit to the man, should be obedient and docile, and should know her place as a lesser being. It is true; some women may have these qualities. However, the man who is interested in the submissive woman interprets these qualities differently. A woman may treasure these qualities while a man simply exploits them. These qualities may very well define a woman's sense of self -- but the important factor is that it is up to her to define her sense of self -- she is free. When a man perceives a woman as submissive, he is imposing his definition on another's selfhood.

This leads us to a related question -- why would a man desire a submissive woman? It is because a man who loves the weak is weak himself. A man who is secure in his masculinity would not feel threatened by a strong woman. A man who is uncertain about his worth belittles others so that he may feel as if he were strong. Only a man who is anxious to prove himself would treat women as if they were lesser beings. Thus, men who seek submissive women, or, as this paper argues, imagines submissive women, experience a profound lack of self esteem, self worth and have low self-images.

Submissive women, quite simply do not exist. Or at least they did not exist before a man defined them as such. Some may argue that such women do exist, particularly women from less developed nations who are supposedly waiting to be rescued by a man from the first world. This is entirely a product of one's imagination, fueled by the hegemonic discourse that defines less developed nations vis-a-vis the first world and by the lack of respect the first world has shown to less developed nations One of the most egregious mistakes a man can make is to assume that women from less developed nations are more submissive. To be sure, one must realize that there are important cultural differences. A woman who prides herself on being a good wife and mother, as it is done in South Korea, is valorized by her culture and not at all considered submissive whereas a man from the United States may wrongly interpret her behavior as an indication of her submissiveness to him. Thus, a man's search for a submissive woman in a less developed country is futile -- he will never find what he is looking for. It is only when he begins to imagine a woman as submissive will he be satisfied.

Ideologies of gender also affect a man's perception of women. In contemporary American society, women are more independent than ever. They now have the option to be both a mother and a professional. The glass ceiling, while it still exists, is challenged on many fronts. Women now have many freedoms that were previously denied to them. One of the most interesting and perhaps disturbing arguments for the "problems" caused by feminism is that women are no longer feminine enough. Men feel as they are being emasculated and that their sense of self is jeopardized. Some men seek the company of women from less developed countries in the hopes that he will find a more "traditional"-- read "submissive" woman. The search for traditional woman is a metaphor for the perceived emasculation of men. The man is less interested in traditional women and more interested in saving his sense of masculinity.

In conclusion, this paper has discussed the implications of the myth of submissive women and the social ideologies of gender that underlay it. Men who seek submissive women reveal more about themselves than the women that they are with. Submissive women are largely a product of the male imagination and speak volumes about their lack of security and low self-image. Only when men realize that women are worthy of the same respect and rights accorded to men can they break free from limits of their imagination.