The benefits of FLR for women are numerous. With this in mind, why aren’t more women naturally seeking to establish this kind of relationship with their partner? Why is it so hard, even for a willing couple, to establish and maintain this dynamic in their relationship? Why are men often fearful (sometimes with good reason!) of the reaction their female partner might have when they open up about their desire to be dominated?
Part of the answer to these questions lies in gender socialization. Therefore, being aware of gender socialization and its effects upon us can help us to better understand the social, cultural and psychological resistances that we encounter within a couple when establishing the FLR dynamic.
What Is Gender Socialization?
Broadly speaking, “Gender socialization is a process by which individuals develop, refine and learn to ‘do’ gender through internalizing gender norms and roles as they interact with key agents of socialization, such as their family, peers, social networks and other social institutions.”
Thus, shortly after the announcement of pregnancy, as soon as the parents know the sex of the unborn child, a series of preparations are set in motion: choice of first name, putting together a wardrobe, selection of toys, etc. From then on, the process of gender socialization plays out. A series of representations and expectations relating to the unborn child are activated. These form part of a more global process which associates biological sex with a series of specific gender attributes.
Many social experiments (such as this funny one) demonstrate that differentiated socialization leads to the engendering (literally) of different attitudes and skills for girls and boys depending on what is valued by the cultural context. Especially, girls thus learn to be gentle, obedient, kind, understanding, empathetic and oriented to the needs of others.
Is Gender Socialization an Obstacle to FLR?
If only because women assume more leadership in FLR than in traditional couples’ relationships, this kind of union calls into question some of the social norms internalized by the process of gender socialization. This can be a hindrance that we must face when establishing FLR, no matter which level, because overstepping a social norm can be emotionally uncomfortable, even very challenging. While this may be more subtle at level 1 or 2, it becomes very concrete at level 3 or higher.
From this perspective, FLR is challenging to social gender norms, for both men and women. However, it seems men tend to be more willing than women to overcome theses psychological and social resistances. “In public situations, men are somewhat more likely to hold their ground, act independently, and refuse to conform, whereas women are more likely to conform to the opinions of others in order to prevent social disagreement.” Thus, non-conformism is a personality trait that is valorised more for men than women.
In relative terms, this can make it harder for a woman to go off the “usual path”, including getting involved in FLR. It might also be because men are motivated by a generally higher libido or by a deeper interest in kink … and the immediate sexual gratification it brings. For women, overcoming these social constraints may require a greater willingness: their goals through FLR are often more diffuse and distant. So, building such relationships can be more demanding for women, who see the benefits less directly.
Gender Socialization Challenge’s (and How to Overcome Them)
In brief, there are numerous effects resulting from gender socialization on both men and women. However, the next paragraphs will focus on three challenges that affect women in particular. Some tips, from a feminine perspective, will be offered to both partners about how to overcome these challenges, to the benefit of their FLR.
Challenge One: From Obeying to Ordering
From a very young age, children are raised to integrate the rules of politeness of their society. We quickly learn that the “magic” word is “please” and that we should say “thank you” when someone offers us something. For women especially, traits such as obedience, politeness and deference are socially highly valued. However, creating the FLR dynamic within a couple requires the woman to assume, minimally, leadership and even some authority.
Tip for her:
Don’t live under the impression that your existence is inconvenient. Develop your self-confidence and learn to not say “please”, “thank you” and apologize all the time. To do this, practice giving orders. At first, it may not be easy to express yourself in an imposing way. However, you will soon be pleasantly surprised at how liberating (and effective) it is! If necessary, prepare yourself by formulating an order in advance in your head about something you would like done. Choose your words carefully. If it helps, add a kind word to “soften” your order, but make sure you don’t make it a request or a question. This can be anything from a practical “help me to tie my shoe, my love” to a more sensual “rub my feet” to a very sexual and authoritative “lick-me, now!”. Be careful, the idea here is not to learn to become ungrateful, rude or insolent (unless you and your partner like this!). The idea is first and foremost to become comfortable asserting yourself and assuming your proper place.
Tip for him:
Support your partner’s efforts (and therefore your own as well) to break free from the shackles of her gender socialization. Remember that giving an order or expressing a demand can be stressful for her, even destabilizing, especially at first. When she adopts assertive, self-confident, attitudes encourage her by being obedient. Show her your love and appreciation. Instead of hoping for immediate gratification for your services, try to put your self-interest aside for the moment. Rather, show her that you are happy to respond to her requests, meet her needs and be of service to her.
Challenge Two: From Shame to Pride
Humility, discretion and modesty are considered traditionally feminine attributes. Because of gender socialization, women are less likely to take pride in who they are and, often, are more likely to doubt themselves. This is true in many different spheres of life, including the relationship that women have with their bodies. Well beyond a certain “normal” modesty, women – more than men – tend to feel shame because of their bodies. Nevertheless, men are commonly highly receptive to women’s bodies in all their true glory. They are even particularly responsive to attributes that women have internalized as negatively connoted: body odor, large hips or buttocks, pubic or armpit hair, feet and urine (to name but a few). Paradoxically, while women are taught to abhor these “dirty things” or “body flaws”, many men have made them fetishes and objects of adoration.
Tip for her:
Don’t be ashamed. Befriend your body. Keep in mind that men are interested in your body, just as it is. Explore your assets and whichever of his kinks that can be harnessed for the benefit of your FLR (while respecting the limits you have, together, identified, of course). Dare to wear your panties and have him sniff them afterwards. Or, dare to spread your legs in front of him with a confident attitude. If necessary, to help you overcome your embarrassment, do it progressively. Start by dimming the lights or exposing yourself only briefly. You will be amazed at the reaction the smell or the view of your pussy – and your ass – will cause him. In short, dare to show off the assets that the “beast in him” sees in you and not hide these as society has taught you to do.
Tip for him:
Again, be supportive of your partner’s efforts to break free from the shackles of her gender socialization. She may feel insecure or even vulnerable when she dares to go beyond these limits. Be understanding and non-judgmental when she does. Be accepting of her body and mind. If the experience is not ideal, it will always be possible to readjust later during other eventual experimentation. She will be more willing to explore if she is – and feels – fully free, accepted and loved. In short, be sensitive to the efforts (perhaps enormous) that she is making – for her happiness and yours – to overcome the taboos that society has instilled in her.
Challenge Three: From Self-Denial to Self-Worth
Being empathetic, healing, caring, nurturing… in other words: taking care of others’ needs, is another model of behavior that women, above all, internalize through the process of gender socialization. While these altruistic qualities are to the credit of those who possess them, they can also interfere with the assertiveness needed to assume leadership within a couple. In addition, they can hinder effective communication within a couple, especially in FLR where the man may expect the leader to clearly express expectations.
Tip for her:
You may have been focused on others for so long that you have trouble identifying your needs and desires. Learn to pay attention to these. Also, keep in mind that people in general, especially those men seeking FLR, feel more comfortable and secure when a clear framework is established. Your partner can’t guess what is in your head and in your heart just because he loves you! Therefore, if you are dissatisfied with his behavior, don’t wait until you are exasperated. If you feel the need for more frequent demonstrations of affection, don’t wait until he realizes this on his own (you may wait indefinitely!). Clearly communicate your desires, limits and demands. Tell him your needs and how to meet them. He will probably be more than happy to fulfill your wishes. As a bonus, you will strengthen your power over him, while he will feel all the more useful and competent in making you happy.
Tip for him:
Guess what? Again, supporting her is one of your main roles in FLR! Remember that it may be difficult for her to identify her own tastes, wants and needs. Give her the “space” she needs to express these. For example, let her convey what she wants before you mention your own preferences, so she doesn’t censor herself. Demonstrate sincere interest in her desires, opinions and ambitions. Ask her for advice. Try to understand what she might like and find useful, beyond your own vision of what a woman “should” want or like.
Undoubtedly, there are a multitude of other socially conditioned personality traits that can create resistance to FLR, especially for women.
For her, entering into such a relationship will almost certainly require some measure of “reprogramming” to overcome the limitations of her own social taboos. This will require effort and patience.
For him, to move beyond mere selfish or ephemeral motivations, it will also probably require some measure of social “deprogramming” which, of course, will not happen without willingness. It also asks that he be ready to support his female partner in her own resocialization process.
The good news is that each difficulty overcome in this journey provides prospects for infinite happiness. Both for the couple, who can then deepen their FLR dynamic, as well as each individual who will learn, a little more each day, to better know who they are beyond simply what they have been taught to be.
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- Brachet, S. et al. (2014). “Le genre en gestation. Préparatifs de la naissance d’un bébé fille ou d’un bébé garcon”. Des femmes et des hommes singuliers. p. 137-162.https://www.cairn.info/des-femmes-et-des-hommes-singuliers–9782200289232-page-137.htm
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