Thoughts of a Lifestyle Domme

RIP ‘Gentle Femdom’, An Outdated Term

Black or white? Not my cup of tea

Let me just preface this by saying, I am not out to criticise anybody who identifies with the GFD label in any way.

I’m here to pick a bone with the term itself.

Not only has the label outlived its usefulness, becoming more confusing than meaningful, but it has created a false dichotomy which is at the very least unhelpful and, in my opinion, a poor means of framing female dominance. Here’s why.

The origins of the ‘GFD’ label

The gentle femdom or ‘GFD’ ‘label developed in the heyday of Tumblr as a backlash to the ‘men are worms’ dominatrix stereotype commonly portrayed in mainstream porn.

Intending to distinguish from the ‘harshness’ portrayed in porn, it soon became a helpful little beacon intended for anyone on the hunt for any sort of lifestyle vibes. You know, the kind of thing where submissive men are valued, affection is a thing, and real women are represented.

At the time it was invaluable to many people, who felt understandably alienated by what they saw in porn. But amidst the modern abundance of spaces for lifestyle femdom of all kinds, it has become more hinderance than help.

Why GFD has outlived its usefulness

Above all, ‘GFD’ is an incredibly unclear term. I have made extensive attempts at trying to hunt down some kind of definition.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t one.

There is, at best, what seems like a vague direction. Type in ‘GFD’ and you’ll unsurprisingly come across some amalgam of the caregiver / ‘mommy’ kink, role reversal (although the folk into role reversal often take pains to distinguish themselves), praise kinks, and general affection.

But even that idea of a direction is misleading. What is and isn’t considered ‘gentle’ varies wildly. For some folks, pain is absolutely on the table, it’s just a question of tone. For others, they pursued GFD precisely to avoid sadomasochism.

In fact, humiliation, degradation, and emotional sadism are all variously represented within the GFD community. And for every person who embraces those kinks, you’ll find one who identifies with GFD precisely to avoid them.

That is to say, ‘GFD’ is so broad that it is almost meaningless.

When someone says they’re into ‘gentle femdom’ then, what does that mean? That they are into specific kinks? Don’t like inflicting or receiving pain? Like a specific tone? Like affection? All or none of the above?

It conveys very little information and rather muddies the water when it comes to discussion, writing, or perhaps finding a partner.

The thing is, this vagueness is unsurprising when you consider the original point of the ‘GFD’ tag was to distinguish it from the ‘conventional’ image – that is, it signalled what it wasn’t.

I have absolutely no issue with porn. As I’ve said before, it’s not the fault of pornography that some people mistake it for a tutorial.

However, porn is inherently performative and, for the most part, meant for the male gaze. The fact it’s a poor representation of reality is so commonly accepted it has attained trope status.

So why, with so many better representations of femdom, lifestyle blogs and communities, why are we still defining any aspect of female dominance relatively to porn?

The unhelpful dichotomy

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked ‘are you more of a harsh or a gentle type domme?

To be honest, that question short wires my brain.

It poses me between two stereotypes and asks me which one I fit best. And the answer is, unsurprisingly, neither.

The vulgarity often seen in porn has never been my style and I dislike being the object of attraction (my rant on the subject can be found here). Equally, as someone for whom age play is a hard limit, I don’t feel comfortable identifying with the distinctly saccharine associations of ‘gentle’ dominance.

I love my sub. I value him immensely and our play is often affectionate. A means of connecting. I am also a deeply sadistic person. The two are not incongruous for us – in fact, quite the opposite.

Does that make me ‘gentle’ or ‘harsh’? You tell me.

How should we talk about female dominance?

Of course, no label will ever account for the infinite variants in personal taste. However, the M/f community seems to manage to discuss things in terms of dominant archetypes. While these are undoubtedly broad, these at least do offer some substance – a reflection of the commonly found types of dominants within the community.

The dichotomy female dominance, on the other hand, is based on a stereotype which, while evidently very marketable, has never been a good reflection of female dominance. While archetypes have their failings, we desperately need better options than ‘like porn’ and ‘not like porn’ to frame the discussion of female dominance.

‘GFD’ helped a lot of people find their way to femdom in its Tumblr days. It has played an important role and we should recognise that. However, it was never intended to create this false dichotomy, leaving us to contend with two stereotypes instead of one.

We should be past habitually pigeon-holing female dominance based on its resemblance to porn (or lack thereof). Tumblr is long since dead. Perhaps it’s time we respectfully bury the ‘GFD’ label along with it.

 

Miss Rosa

Miss Rosa

I'm a lifestyle domme - D/s is my ‘normal’. It's an integral part of who and how I am. This blog contains BDSM advice, memories, rants, rambles, and answers to the questions which rock up in my inbox over and over. If you have any thoughts, do leave a comment!

1 thought on “RIP ‘Gentle Femdom’, An Outdated Term”

  1. This is an interesting and thought-provoking post. I wonder if practice is the philosophical underpinning is a place to start…what is the motivation of the Domme? What is her source of pleasure in the engagement. Some do appear to like the “fashion” aspects, wearing latex, etc for its sexiness…others love the whimpering/melting. of their sub when they cross a threshold together–a kind of boundary-expanding style…others enjoy the empowerment of power exchange, and some might enjoy mothering energy…And I think there are still others who are in the lifestyle and where none of the “play” aspects of BDSM are archetypal, but their approach is more emotional, or tantric–mutual touching. I don’t know what use that would be or where it would get you–presumably to help people find each other. I had found some simple comfort in the descriptions of top/bottom, submissive v slave, but that doesn’t point to style.

    And as you say, is a gentle domme one who might also whip? It isn’t a helpful distinction.

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I’m a lifestyle domme. This is a place for my writing and reflections on kink, lifestyle D/s, and the endless stream of nonsense in my inbox. 

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