Good Girl

30 Mar

“Good girl.”

I don’t think there’s anything that captures my mixed feelings about submission like that phrase. There’s so much in there. 

Until very recently, it was one of my least favorite things to hear. So condescending. Patronizing. Paternalistic. I’ve been called “good girl” a few times in my adult life by men who had no place calling me that and it never failed to make me bristle. I even remember hating it as a child.

And then there’s the phrase itself. “Good girl.” I’ve always been a bit too much of a Good Girl for my own tastes. Even when I tried to be a bad girl, hanging out with the potheads, getting myself arrested at a protest, I’ve usually been good. I’ve always been the one with Good Judgment. My best friends now, incidentally, are either like me – the good girls who hung out with the bad kids – or are reformed bad girls. The latter assure me that I didn’t miss out, but I listen to their stories and, frankly, I’m not so sure.

Because what feminist wants to be a Good Girl? After all, every feminist knows that Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History. And then there’s the whole madonna-whore complex thing, which will certainly be a subject of its own post at some point.

Oh, and of course, there’s the fact that it’s “good girl.” I know it’s pretty commonplace to refer to grown women as girls, and I do it all the time. But there’s no denying that it adds to the patronizing tone.

So that’s why I don’t like “good girl.” Or rather, why I don’t want to like “good girl.” Because, honestly? I fucking love it. It makes my pussy wet and my heart sing. The first time a dominant partner called me a “good girl,” I felt like I had just taken a shot of morphine. And I wanted more.

You might argue that my positive reaction is a purely visceral one that bypasses all rational thought. But part of me also thinks that the reasons I dislike it are partly the reasons I like it, too. It is paternalistic and condescending. It puts my partner in the position to decide whether or not I’m good, and that’s a powerful position. Dominant.

And then there’s the very fact that I like it so much, which is a little, well, humiliating. And that just adds an extra frission of erotic stimulation and emotional intensity. As maymay said once, “I don’t want to be tortured, but I want it.” Obviously, being called a “good girl” is not exactly torture, but I think maymay perfectly captures that paradox of being submissive for me – of wanting the things I don’t want. I want them both in spite of and because of the fact that I don’t want them.

So I do have conflicted feelings and thoughts about this phrase, and they mirror my conflicted thoughts about submission.

But here’s the most embarrassing confession: right now, at this moment, there’s little I want more than to be someone’s Good Girl.

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11 Responses to “Good Girl”

  1. Leah March 30, 2011 at 3:34 PM #

    Within a sexual context, I like the diminutive “good girl” as well. Older lovers more often give me this appellation, this praise. It elates me.

    It doesn’t feel to me that my submission arises from “wanting the things I don’t want.” Rather, I truly want it. I enjoy pleasing a partner with my body. I am offering myself, and this gesture excites me. He takes, and I get off on this. I like the powerlessness of the experience. I explore new sensations and revel in their novelty. Sometimes it embarrasses me to ask for a thing, but I do so out of desire — because I want. Although I am not the one in control, I nevertheless consider myself an equal partner, fully complicit in the sex. We do it together. I want it this way.

    • feministsub March 30, 2011 at 4:35 PM #

      “It doesn’t feel to me that my submission arises from “wanting the things I don’t want.” Rather, I truly want it. I enjoy pleasing a partner with my body.”

      This is one of the things I enjoy about reading your blog – how much you truly do love this. It’s inspiring.

      For me, I don’t feeling that submission totally rises from wanting what I don’t want, but it is an aspect of it. Part of me thinks this will recede as I gain more experience and get more comfortable with this part of myself, but part of me truly does enjoy the tension of both wanting and not wanting something.

      Regardless, I definitely view myself as an equal partner. But I know the whole “wanting what I don’t want” thing can be problematic for equal partnership. It’s something I wrestle with.

  2. maymay March 30, 2011 at 5:15 PM #

    Huh. Interesting.

    For what it’s worth, being a “good boy” has been one of my favorite things to hear for as long as I can remember. Reading your uncomfortableness towards the phrase makes me inclined to attribute our differing feelings about it to our gendered experiences in the world.

    When you say:

    Oh, and of course, there’s the fact that it’s “good girl.” I know it’s pretty commonplace to refer to grown women as girls, and I do it all the time. But there’s no denying that it adds to the patronizing tone.

    I’m reminded of the examples many dictionaries cite to explain the meaning of the word “pretty”: pretty song, pretty room, pretty girl. These are (sexist) sexual standards. They hurt me—and many others, too.

    Also, Leah:

    I like the powerlessness of the experience. […] Sometimes it embarrasses me to ask for a thing, but I do so out of desire — because I want. Although I am not the one in control, I nevertheless consider myself an equal partner, fully complicit in the sex.

    In my (not so) humble opinion, extricating control from power is what claiming sexually submissive agency is about. We are not often taught, as bottoms in the BDSM Scene, how to do this and I think that’s because most of the BDSM community at large has an unacceptably poor understanding of the systemics of power itself, sexual and otherwise. It seems to me that your desire for the experience of powerlessness feels at odds with your claim of “complicity” precisely because you wish to abdicate your control of the sexual situation in order to serve the fantasy of “not being in control.”

    That’s totally cool (and fun), but by your own admission of being “an equal partner,” that’s not really what’s happening. Put another way, the liminal space of “wanting what we don’t want” problematizes dichotomized notions of control to a degree that threatens much of the powerful/powerlessness fantasies intrinsic to most BDSM discourse. The BDSM community, writ large, enjoys either/or thinking to an astonishingly damaging degree—not to mention how disgustingly sexist they are.

    Let’s develop a deeper understanding so more of us can approach these issues using both/and thinking, instead.

    • feministsub March 31, 2011 at 7:31 AM #

      This comment will take me a while to work through. 🙂 But thank you! I did stop and think while I was writing this about whether or not male subs enjoy “good boy.” It actually made me think about how much of the language of domination and submission is at least subtly gendered.

      Do you mind explaining what you mean by this?
      “Put another way, the liminal space of “wanting what we don’t want” problematizes dichotomized notions of control to a degree that threatens much of the powerful/powerlessness fantasies intrinsic to most BDSM discourse.”

      • maymay March 31, 2011 at 11:13 AM #

        This comment will take me a while to work through. 🙂 But thank you! I did stop and think while I was writing this about whether or not male subs enjoy “good boy.” It actually made me think about how much of the language of domination and submission is at least subtly gendered.

        Subtly? 🙂 It’s quite overt. “Sissy,” “bitch,” “slut,” etc., all usually treat femininity as intrinsically submissive.

        And it’s not just gendered. Sexually dominant and submissive lingo frequently puts underprivileged (oppressed) populaces in the submissive role while putting privileged populaces in the dominant one. See, for example, “little girl/boy,” which highlights both size and age—youth are arguably the most consistently disadvantaged populace on the planet—or “who’s your daddy,” for the reciprocal perspective. In other words, if “power is an aphrodisiac,” then oppression is a sexual performance enhancing drug.

        In my experience, most BDSM’ers like to avoid thinking about this potentially uncomfortable truth because they either think it might ruin their fun or that they’re not complicit in the damage this can cause. But turning a blind eye to this is as idiotic as saying talking about sex (e.g., negotiating) “ruins” the fun of playing or it’s narcissistic to the point of being inhumane. Yes, some BDSM’ers say that and are those things, too, and they’re usually idiots or privileged shits.

        Do you mind explaining what you mean by this?

        Put another way, the liminal space of “wanting what we don’t want” problematizes dichotomized notions of control to a degree that threatens much of the powerful/powerlessness fantasies intrinsic to most BDSM discourse.

        Oh, all I mean is that most BDSM’ers enjoy treating “What It Is That We Do” as a dichotomy of power wherein bottoms/submissives have none (they are powerless) and tops/dominants have all of it (they are powerful), as if it’s all some kind of zero-sum, either/or game. The way the community talks about this (i.e., its discourse) typically fails to acknowledge or delegitimizes situations in which bottoms have power and tops do not (regardless of whether or not they also have “control”).

        For instance, “service top” is a vague pejorative in the BDSM community precisely because it threatens the “powerfulness” of a top. Conversely, “do-me bottom” is similar because it threatens the “powerlessness” of a bottom. I think this is why expressing desire in the form of “wanting what I don’t want” is complicated; it problematizes my own fantasy of absolute powerlessness and my top’s absolute powerfulness, which can feel threatening to many ignorant or simple-minded BDSM’ers.

        Since so much of the way the BDSM community and, in fairness, contemporary overarching society, couples submission with femininity and femininity with powerlessness, it should come as no surprise that most BDSM’ers are profoundly sexist and, worse, often willfully ignorant of that. Sadly, the petulant self-righteousness with which many of them go about espousing their “lifestyle” can easily obscure a greater understanding of both the problems with and benefits of “The Scene.” They certainly obscured them from me for a long, long time.

        I hope this wasn’t too brash a comment for your blog. I think your post was really good.

  3. Leah March 31, 2011 at 1:39 AM #

    Neither domination nor submission exists in vacuum. One requires the other. So there is a partnership. My usage of “equal” is in a colloquial sense. As well, submission, for me, transpires by choice. I am there because I want to be there. In how I play, I have a safeword and reserve an ultimate veto. I can enunciate a refusal of each act. When I fail to do so, I am complicit. I have delegated authority rather than abdicated it and concur in its exercise. I am not in control. But I could be by asserting my right. While the experience of powerlessness may be a fantasy, it is nonetheless an effective one.

  4. feministsub March 31, 2011 at 12:14 PM #

    @maymay: thanks for the explanation and the shout-out on your blog. This last comment gave me enough to think about that I think it will end up being its own post. But no worries on the tone – I enjoyed reading it.

  5. NeanderthalLover May 5, 2011 at 10:51 AM #

    Mmm… made me think of the other night when my man had me by the hair, smacking the hell out of my ass & asking if I’ve been a bad girl… thanks for the flashback! 😉

  6. Southeast, Sex and Sanity May 6, 2011 at 6:53 PM #

    A fantastic insight, thanks very much! “good girl” is one of my favourite phrases to say to a submissive partner and I have had explosive reactions to it in the past. Very often it comes from the more nurturing, paternalistic, caring side of my dominance. It was great to hear someone elses thoughts on a phrase I love to use. If you want to swing past my blog it would be great to see you

    Charlie

    http://southeastsexandsanity.blogspot.com/

  7. Tomio Black August 27, 2011 at 8:58 AM #

    I think there is a dichotomy in the way “good girl/boy” is used. One usage is as a diminishing of stature…you are not an adult, but a child. The other is as a recognition of endearment.

    “Good boy,” from Mistress Delila is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. But pretty much anyone else is going to get a poke in the chops for it. It isn’t about “wanting what I don’t want” for me. It is that the context of what I want is very specific.

    • feministsub August 27, 2011 at 10:27 AM #

      You know, it’s interesting to look at this post now. I was so conflicted at the time, but I don’t really feel that way anymore. Coming from the right person, as you say, it’s just lovely.

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