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The science of psych

Why Dominant Women Enjoy Sexual Submission Fantasies, Part 2

For alpha females, apparently, submission is empowering.
This post is a response to Why Dominant Women Enjoy Sexual Submission Fantasies, Part 1 by Matthew Hutson

My last post revealed that socially dominant women enjoy sexual submission fantasies more than other women. Why is that?

Some have suggested that fantasies of forceful submission reflect a desire for humiliation. (See my post "Why Do Women Have Erotic Rape Fantasies?".) But Hawley and Hensley write in their recent paper that "If these fantasies instead reflect a passionate exchange with a powerful, resource-holding, and attentive suitor, then through them the dominant woman could reinforce her high standing in the group and her favorable opinion of herself." 

Participants answered questionnaires about what themes they read into erotic submission vignettes (masochism? emotional distance?). The most socially dominant women were more likely to interpret the scenarios as indicating that they were irresistible and personally powerful (the seducer "cannot help her/himself, I am as strong as s/he is and s/he must overcome me to have me"). Type A seeks same. For alpha females, apparently, submission is empowering.

Which particular elements of submission fantasies are actually required to get the engine revving?At the annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology meeting in February I spotted a poster [PDF] by Hawley and another student, Justin Lynn, that answers this question. Again, they used erotic vignettes:

"...She stammered in protest at his wantonness, but he pushed her onto the bed. She stared up at him as his hand moved slowly to his zipper. Before she could say anything, he loomed over her. He captured her with his animalistic passion...."

But for each gender they created six versions. Five of them had one thematic element removed: emotional passion, explicit sex, physical force, monogamous interest (was the seducer pursuing anyone else that night?), or clear-mindedness of the seducer. It turns out that force was the only element whose removal didn't significantly reduce the vignette's appeal, a finding that supports Hawley's view that forceful submission fantasies are "generally construed as an ardent, passionate pursuit rather than force per se." 

Removing passion and clear-mindedness disappointed women more than men, but removing explicit sex did not; yes, ladies like the graphic stuff too, as long as the aggressor is not a deranged robot.

 

Matthew Hutson is a science journalist in New York City.

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