The Difficulties of Dating as a Straight Submissive Man

What the gay community can teach straight men, especially submissive ones, about getting the kind of sex they want.

January 11, 2022 9:19 am
A mock dating app profile features the bio: "And if it gets there, I'm submissive in bed."
It's tough out there for a straight male sub, but it doesn't have to be.

Jeremy* is a five-foot-ten, 250-pound man from South Carolina with broad shoulders and a bushy beard who says he works what’s “typically seen as a ‘manly’ type of job” in manufacturing. He’s straight and, even though he lives in a rural area with a relatively sparse population, Jeremy gets his fair share of dates on Tinder. He says that lately he hasn’t gotten past the first meeting with any of his matches. The last one straight up laughed in his face before calling it a night.

They’ve all been turned off by a personality trait that Jeremey feels increasingly shameful about: he’s submissive in bed. 

“Where I’m from, it’s seen as very abnormal for the guy to not be the dominant one,” Jeremy says, “to not be the one to just — pardon my language here — pin a woman down and take her. That’s considered the norm.”

When sex comes up in conversation with other guys at work, Jeremy says they all talk about their dominance over girlfriends and other female sex partners. He says they’ve been raised to think that’s just how they’re supposed to have intercourse. 

But Jeremy’s most recent girlfriend taught him differently. They dated for two years, and over that time he became more and more deferential to her. 

“It started with her wanting to be on top of me,” Jeremy says. “I wasn’t very used to that.”

Over time, his girlfriend upped the ante with more aggressive language, e.g., “I want you to just lie there and let me use you.” Jeremy enjoyed it. Sometimes she’d arrive home from her job and immediately instruct Jeremy to get on the bed. “I’m going to fuck you,” she’d say. When she first broached the idea of pegging — that is, using a strap-on to penetrate him — Jeremy objected. After some persuading, however, he relented. By the end of their relationship, Jeremy and his girlfriend were doing it two or three times a week. 

“Turns out I loved it,” Jeremy says. “We did that for the last few months of our relationship.”

A month ago, Jeremy’s girlfriend broke up with him, saying she needed to “experiment” more with other sexual partners. Jeremy was devastated and says he didn’t eat for a week. Since then, he’s been on three ill-fated Tinder dates, all of them ending when he brings up his submissive sexual nature. He tells the women he likes to be pinned down, tied up and pegged, and also that he wants to “praise” them, a term which, according to an Urban Dictionary entry, needs no explanation: “The name of it fucking explains it.”

Jeremy says it’s upsetting that women assume he’s a dom because of his imposing physical frame, and that he can’t find a female partner who’s open to performing the sex acts he prefers. 

He’s not alone in his frustration. The title of one recent Reddit post in the forum r/BDSMAdvice reads: “Dating as a submissive man seeking a dominant women [sic] is very hard and I feel like no one talks about it.” The author writes that “this is the hardest dating pool to be in,” that he feels “invisible” and believes the only way he’ll ever access a dominant woman is by compensating her monetarily. Over in r/datingoverthirty, another submissive male user writes that women are “palpably nonplussed” when he asks if he can be a sub during sex. “More than a few of my relationships have scuttled on this rock!” he adds.

Perhaps these submissive men and others like them should take a page out of the gay men’s dating handbook. In their community, sexual needs are often communicated far more directly, freely and immediately. 

“We just say so clearly what we’re into and what we want in a way that many straight men do not feel comfortable [doing],” says Zachary Zane, a writer and sexpert for sexual pleasure product makers Promescent. Zane’s technically bisexual, and actively dates in both gay and straight circles. He observes a higher level of “sexual transparency among gay couples,” primarily due to the presence of “a much larger, rampant hookup culture” in the gay community than in its straight counterpart.  

While the approach a man like Jeremy might take depends on a series of factors — whether or not he’s looking for sex or a relationship, and whether or not he’s polyamorous or monogamous, for example — Zane says if he just wants to get laid, he might as well tell women he’s a submissive via text before they meet in person. “Otherwise you’re going to end up wasting each other’s time,” Zane says. His point of reference is Grindr and other hookup apps for gay people, but also “real life” meetings for gay men. According to Zane, “there’s a weird necessity” to being very forthcoming about what gay men want in a sexual partner: “If you’re both strict tops or both strict bottoms, you can’t have sex.”

Zane also suggests that submissive men looking for dominant female sex partners mention their predilections in their profiles. “Write in your bio something like, ‘…and if it gets there, I’m a submissive in bed,’” Zane says. “You don’t have to write a whole essay about all of your kinks, but let them know. And that’s a nice, easy way to broach the conversation.”

The situation might not be as dire for these submissive men as they think it is, either. Another writer and sexpert, Susan Bratton, says in our culture today there’s much more openness about sexual wants than in the past, and more exploration as well. “Generally, sexuality is becoming more fluid and more ‘switch-y’ for everyone across the gender spectrum,” Bratton says. “More and more heterosexual, monogamous couples are doing things like threesomes and pegging and having new experiences.”

After hearing Jeremy’s story, Bratton asserts his experiences are “perfectly valid” and that there are “lots and lots of women who enjoy having a lover who isn’t always the masculine dominant.”

In other words, “He’s perfect the way he is,” Bratton continues. “He’s just fishing in the wrong pool for what he wants.” 

Like Zane, Bratton urges Jeremy and other men stuck in similar positions to seek sexual partners on kink-friendly dating and hookup platforms like Feeld or Fetlife. Bratton also says Jeremy should consider the possibility that his engagement with submissiveness “could very well be one stage of his sexual maturation” and that “he’ll continue on, having many stages.” She also hints that Jeremy might be having more pleasurable sex than many other men whose homophobia gets in the way of their enjoyment of prostate orgasms, which are often achieved through anal penetration. 

Bratton empathizes with Jeremy’s plight, particularly as it relates to his location. She says he has to cast a wider net than city folk, because it is a challenge for someone like him to find suitable sexual partners in more conservative and rural regions with fewer people in the dating pool. 

“I feel like if I was in a more urban area … it probably would be a little easier of a time,” admits Jeremy. 

A common cultural refrain Jeremy says he hears in the South, if only implicitly, is “be a man,” and that that phrase generally excludes men who share his sexual interests. But what is a “real” man if not someone who’s confident enough to clearly and openly communicate his needs to potential partners? And with the added bonus of superior orgasms, no less.

*Names have been changed.

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