On Fetish-Wear

In my post about Shibaricon, I noted my frustration of the double standard that exists in “the scene” for men and women when it comes to clothing and appearance. I’m quite sure other bloggers more eloquent than I have written about this, but it’s not something I hear talked about very often. So here’s my extended rant on the topic. 😛

At any given BDSM-related event (party, convention, even some classes), this is what I see when I look at the men in the room:

  • Men in leather gear
  • Men in t-shirts with words on them (or band t-shirts) and jeans or shorts
  • Many men with a paunch and an ill-fitting t-shirt
  • Men in sleeveless undershirts
  • Men in need of a haircut and/or shave
  • The occasional man in a decent shirt and jeans
  • Some men who are fit and trim

In other words, I see a wide range of bodies, clothing styles, and grooming standards among the men. This is true regardless of which side of the slash the men are on (finding any solely on the s side is exceedingly rare, however). ALL of the men identifying as dominant are accepted as such without a second thought by anyone. Women flirt with them and hang on their every word if they’re presenting, regardless of how they’re dressed. Their appearance appears to have NO BEARING on the level of respect these men engender. I’ve been to numerous classes and presentations given by men in shorts and a loose tank top or t-shirt.

Well great, you’re saying. This is how it should be, yes? Absolutely – people should be valued for things other than their looks and wardrobe. But guess what? When I look at the women who at these same events here’s what I see:

  • Corsets
  • Garters and hose
  • Makeup
  • Carefully done hair
  • Boots
  • High heeled shoes
  • The occasional leather-gear wearing butch Domme
  • Short skirts
  • Cleavage-revealing tops
  • Femme dresses

WHY? Why is this the standard for women? Now I have had this conversation with some female dominant friends of mine from all over the world. And some of them got defensive. Some said, “dressing like that makes me feel sexy”. Well great! If rocking a corset gives you confidence, go for it!

But to those women I say (and said at the time): Ask yourself WHY. Why does dressing like a stereotypical porn-Domme make you feel attractive and sexy and confident? Who are you really dressing for? Why does catering to men’s fantasy ideals of how a dominant woman should dress work for you? If you’re OK with your own answers to those question, go forth and rock that corset and 6” heels! There are days and times when I like how I look in a corset and skirt, too. But they’re rare.

I most often feel comfortable and confident in boots, decent jeans, and a plain black t-shirt. It’s also infinitely easier to swing a flogger or deal with meters and meters of rope wearing a t-shirt and jeans than it is in a corset and tight skirt. And guess what? Almost every single dominant woman I know says the same thing. In the privacy of our own homes, or maybe among our own small circle of friends, that’s how we dress – comfortably. Many dominant women proudly say they can be just as dominant in sweatpants as in fetish wear.




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But when we venture out into the greater community….we feel pressure to dress a certain way. To pull the laces of the corset tighter, to try the higher heels tonight, to dye our greying roots and buy fresh mascara and lipstick. WHY?

It feels an awful lot like dominant women are held to a different standard when it comes to physical appearance than dominant men are. Before you get your knickers/jockey shorts in a bunch and send me indignant emails asserting YOU aren’t like that….I know. I do know that quite a lot of people don’t give a rats’ ass what anyone is wearing. And I’ve heard tell of events and parties that have dominant women in a wide variety of clothing and with a wide variety of body types.

I have a strong suspicion we women do this to ourselves. We tell ourselves we “have” to dress a certain way. We silently judge each other or imagine we’re being judged by each other for the shape of our bodies, the style of our hair, the cut of our corset, the height of our heels. We’re our own worst enemies.

I hate that I fall prey to this line of thinking before I go to any party. Some parties/events specify a dress code of “fetish wear”, which doesn’t help. Because men can get away with wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt and call it fetish wear. Women? Not so much. But that’s what I wear anyway, most of the time (I don’t go to a huge number of such events, however).

I’m hoping to see more dominant women dressing for themselves at future events. And I’m going to work on rocking that t-shirt and jeans wherever I go.


TL;DR: Dominant women should not be held to different/higher standards than men when it comes to clothing at parties.



7 thoughts on “On Fetish-Wear

  1. This is a great post, and yes the ‘Domme-dress-up’ thing has been said before a million times in general terms, but you hit on specifics which bring it to a more personal level for me.

    The ‘if you do it, why?’ thing is interesting to me. And by ‘interesting’ I mean ‘I don’t have a simple answer’.

    I might have to write a post on this rather than trying to work it out in the comments here.


    1. It’s complex, isn’t it? A lot of it is tied up with women’s fashion in general (as Neophyte notes below). I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.

  2. It feels like dominant women are held to a different standard of appearance than dominant men because they are. All women in Western culture are held to a different standard of appearance than men. Fetish fashion just exaggerates that double standard. More men should dress nicely for kink events (and more women should feel comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt). I have a friend who often wears a suit and tie to munches because he likes how he looks and feels in it.

    1. I have a friend who often wears a suit and tie to munches because he likes how he looks and feels in it.

      I like that!

      And you’re right – it does boil down to how you feel in an outfit. What fascinates me is the WHY we feel a certain look is attractive/desirable. There’s probably someone’s dissertation in there somewhere.

      1. Ah, Neophyte beat me to it. The double standard seems like nothing new, at least from my end.

        I’ve also worn a suit and tie to a fetish event. I like looking nice for a special occasion, as a matter of respect to the other attendees, and it suits me (pardon the pun) better than, say, latex. At least one formal kink event had me in black suit, black dress shirt, black neck tie, and polished black Western boots. And I was rocking it, if I do say.

        I don’t do that much anymore, though, largely because of the onset of my heat intolerance. I’d even commissioned a black lambskin two-piece suit at one point. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options for men that are physically cool (other than kilts, which are sui generis).

        All that said, that’s for the formal part of the evening. As a man, yeah, I could do golf shirt and casual pants during the day and be above average.

        1. Just because the double standard is not new, does not mean it shouldn’t be addressed and discussed in my view. It feels different in the BDSM/kink scene to me, though. In the business world, in the vanilla world of fancy parties, EVERYONE is expected to “dress up”. While there are certainly some major differences in grooming (i.e. makeup and hair) for men and women, everyone dresses up and pays attention to their appearance. Suits are equally appropriate/expected for both men and women to be taken seriously in the business world, for example.

          I don’t see that at a lot of BDSM/kink events. I see women going all out to conform to some expectation of what a kinky woman is supposed to wear. I see men showing up unshaven in t-shirts and shorts. Over and over again. Not all of them, of course. (My dear readers seem to be among the exceptions to that), but enough. Enough that I’ve noticed the differences in respect given to men regardless of what they’re wearing.

          I think ultimately, what sticks in my craw, is that the kink community is one that purports to be accepting of all – it’s often the one place people feel they can truly be themselves. So it pulls me up short to be faced with, “oh…yeah…you can be yourself but really we expect you to dress in this way”.

          Oh and kilts are my Kryptonite. I think they should be as ubiquitous as sports coats and ties.

          1. I can’t claim to be the kind to dress up very fancy for kink events. I’m always sure to shave well and be well groomed for munches and parties, but the most I really dress up is a polo shirt and khakis. If I can reach my weight-loss goals, though, I’ll probably get myself a suit or two to look good, and I might start wearing that to events occasionally.

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