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Battle of the sexes, more like BATTLE OF THE SANDWICHES (Domino's sells sandwiches...)

When the authors want to include some BDSM into the plot, they might need to have some context and nuance to avoid having the audience mistake it for abuse. But what if there's no room for nuances, or they think Viewers are Morons anyway? Simple! All Abusers Are Male, right? And BDSM is gender neutral, so the solution is simple: Make sure that it's never a woman being topped by a man.

If you want to know what we're talking about then, quick, think of the last time you saw BDSM portrayed in someway on popular television. What position was the man in? He was wearing a ball-gag and being dragged around by a collar and chain, you say? Well then, you've just encountered this trope. Only slightly less common are women in BDSM, and without even checking you can't deny that they're never the ones tied to a bedpost and being whipped. Well, not unless it's an outright porno. If there was a woman involved, she was a dominatrix, without exception. Men might be in a dominant role, but only if they are dominating another man because All Men Are Perverts and because rape isn't nearly as stigmatized when it's male on male.

Actually, you might say you've only really encountered this trope when you notice that this is the only acceptable portrayal of BDSM on TV. If you want to know why, then try to imagine the opposite. The general populace tolerates the BDSM subculture on their televisions only when it can be Played for Laughs and no matter what you do, you can't play a man tying up and flogging a woman for laughs. You just can't. Besides, women look much hotter in Latex and holding riding crops than men in the same. It's funny when a woman dominates a man because women are weak ineffectual creatures (rendering the action inoffensive) and men are supposed to be strong and dominant, thus any man in the role of sub deserves to be ridiculed and by no means sympathized with, even if he's being forced into it.

This trope tends only to be in effect when Bondage Is Bad is at least toned down. If the villain is the one being portrayed as BDSM enthusiast, then he stands a good chance of torturing women; just don't expect anyone but a really evil villainess to enjoy it. The main purpose of this trope is to make BDSM imagery viable for comedy. Secondarily, it can also make BDSM relationships palatable enough to the common viewership for our characters to explore the idea... via ancillary characters who only exist until the end of the episode.

Any full aversion of this trope seriously risks Values Dissonance unless it can somehow be made clear to the audience that the man has the woman's full and explicit consent. And even then, it will still probably be shunned at the very least as Girls Need Role Models.

Another part of this trope is the implication that all men secretly desire to be dominated and all women secretly desire to dominate. This adds to the comedy since it is a reversal of traditional roles and consequently, as the contradiction easily lends itself to pop psychology leading some to propound that at least this part of the trope is Truth in Television.

This trope is also most common in television and movies. The more private nature of printed works often prevents them having to appeal to such a wide and public audience, the facilitation of which is the main function of this trope.

Obviously a Double Standard. Compare to Double Standard Rape (Female on Male), Double Standard Rape (Male on Male), and Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil (which this overlaps with far more than it should), as well as Bondage Is Bad (one of the reasons for the overlap) and Aggressive-Submissive. On a lighter note, also compare Bastard Girlfriend, Dominatrix, Property of Love and Friendly War, as well as Safe, Sane, and Consensual and Safe Word.

Examples of All Women are Doms, All Men are Subs include:

Anime and Manga

  • An episode of Zoku Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei featured the standard image of a salaryman on a leash by a beautiful blond bombshell as a comedic representation of someone who didn't understand his proper place in life (Ugly people don't deserve happiness) and suffered as a result.
    • On a side note, the original Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei almost averted this by flashing some images of girls tied up in shibari position at the beginning of its opening. It was intended to be comical which should have averted the trope, but the comedy is derived from the juxtaposition of the seriousness of showing such images as opposed to the general comedic content of the show.
  • Sorcerer Hunters - Carrot and pretty much every female in the show.
  • In He Is My Master, Yoshitaka never quite gets to do the sick and perverted things he wants to do to his maids. Not even when it would make complete logical sense that he should be able to. The plot always contrives to stop him. It even seems, to all outward appearances, as if Mitsuki (and at one point Anna) would be totally okay with this. But it never happens. He doesn't even seem to consider Mitsuki a viable target.
    • In fact as he ends up being bound and whipped by Izumi and some french girl in one episode.
    • However, there is that one picture in the third episode we get where Izumi is imagining where things will go if Anna becomes Yoshitaka's maid, and that's pretty much a full aversion as it is totally Played for Laughs (But it was probably only allowed because nothing actually happened).
  • Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne!! - In both the anime and the manga, a magazine called "SM Colosseum" is discovered among Shuuske's porn collection. This upsets his parents who proceed to lecture him. Up to this point the incidents are the same, but during the lecture the dialogue of the TV version diverges as Shuusuke's father lectures him (with bated breath) on the evils of submitting to one's masochist tendencies. In the manga,his parents get into an argument the lines of which suggest they used to be into S&M and that's why Shuusuke is interested in such things.
    • Also, the picture on the cover of said magazine is radically different. The Manga version shows a helpless mostly naked loli-ish girl bound and in distress. The TV version features a MUCH more "mature" looking woman wearing a leather corset and panties, still with cuffs but now wearing a faint smile on her face.
    • Not to mention Shuusuke's masochistic fantasies in later chapters (Though he'd probably be happy on either side of the kink as long as he gets to have sex somewhere along the way).
  • MM!: The series revolved around Tarou masochistic instincts, but he's trying to cure them. Meanwhile, all the women are rather dominating, except Arashiko, who tries to be this to appeal to Tarou. Subverted with the Wholesome Crossdresser, who is a guy but acts dominant. Then again, he's in drag.
  • Averted in Nana to Kaoru. Nana, and later Tachi, are submissive to the male Kaoru. Both of the girls do it to release tension, though Tachi prefers bondage to the whole "submissive" thing.


  • Seen in Mr. and Mrs. Smith when Jane is performing her hit on the arms dealer disguised as his dominatrix.
  • High Anxiety had Nurse Diesel as the dom and Dr. Montague as the sub.
  • Mistress Lisa spanking Citizen Elliot in Exit to Eden
  • Averted hard in Secretary where Maggie Gyllenhaal is a submissive woman in a sexual relationship with a dominant man portrayed by James Spader.


  • May or may not be in The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. During a portion of the book, Nell works as a scenario director at a bordello (she literally sits in on sex sessions behind one way glass and directs the actions of the actors/prostitutes). S&M seems to be big in this establishment and it is acknowledged (or rather, vaguely implied and only once) that some of their prostitutes act as subs some of the time. However, the only scene which is narrated is described in the book is definitely F/m and as it is used to draw certain conclusions about the effects of Neo-Victorian culture on a person it does take advantage of the secondary purpose of this trope. Also, as the male sub mentioned is a high-ranking authoritarian figure, it also takes advantage of the primary purpose.
  • Inverted in Ayn Rand's work where the subs are always female and the doms are always male. For example: the Roark/Dominique sex scene in The Fountainhead, which was either Victim Falls For Rapist or just really kinky, depending on who you ask. The female sub/male dom theme even extends beyond the sex scenes, such as when Dagny wears a bracelet which gives her "the most feminine of all aspects: the look of being chained."
  • Paladin of Shadows manages an aversion, with a male dom as the protagonist.
  • Averted in Fifty Shades of Grey" which follows the sex life of a male dom and his female submissive.

Live-Action TV

  • The titular character of House often remarks on his own masochist sympathies. So far as we know, he's joking since we haven't ever seen it and probably never will as might it might compromise his image as a domineering over-masculine character if he was ever spotted in such a situation (but the very fact that we're suppose to pick up on the humor of it automatically makes this trope apply).
    • One episode of House featured a masochistic asian dude and his dominatrix sexfriend. The episode played the kink for drama.
      • That episode also had Chase mentioning that he was once in a BDSM relationship, House assumed he was the sub and taunted him about it. Though when he went into slightly more detail with his coworkers he stated that it was the other way around, he even tried dominating the patient when he became somewhat uncooperative.
    • Another episode averted this by portraying one married couple as enjoying rape fantasies (with the woman being "raped"). But, as it turns out, the wife was poisoning the husband, so either Bondage Is Bad or she really wasn't enjoying it so much.
  • In an episode of Law and Order, the male victim is found murdered inside a dog cage where his wife had left him over the weekend for "being bad". Incidentally, she didn't murder him and thanks to this trope she comes off as quirky and sympathetic.
  • At least one episode of Alias and at least one episode of Smallville have featured Sydney and Lois respectively going undercover as a dominatrix in a sex club to squeeze information out of some bad guy, which luckily happens to be submissive.
    • In that Alias episode, Vaughn also plays a submissive male for Sydney to dominate. There's even jokes about how this is pretty much their actual sex life.
  • Shown once (and implied several times) in the Criminal Minds episode "Pleasure is my Business".
    • When there is a pair of UnSubs working together, the woman is usually the dom, unless the man is the dom or that the team is two men.
  • Sex and the City dealt with BDSM several times, only once was a woman the submissive. Even that fell into the trope however, as Miranda's dominant boyfriend was just a complete asshole and the show treated his bedroom behavior as an extension of that.
  • Michael and Jan on The Office are repeatedly implied to be this.
  • Like many police procedurals Castle played the trope straight in an episode where the victim-of-the-week is a sociology PhD student studying BDSM by becoming a dom. But it did feature a hilarious example when Beckett interrogated a suspect using dom psychology.
  • One episode of Dollhouse started with Echo coming back from a job as a dominatrix and explaining to her handler how BDSM is about trust.
  • One of Belle's clients on Secret Diary of a Call Girl asks her to dabble in this in one episode. Of course, she vamps it up to the nth degree.
  • Game of Thrones is a debatable case. Certainly, men are seen dominating women, but this is typically shown as a bad thing. However, the acts of domination are typically shown as non-consensual, and going WELL beyond SSC. When Joffrey was with a pair of whores they had no objection at all to light spanking, and became distressed only when Joffrey demanded that one of them beat the other first with a belt, and then with his sceptre.
  • Subverted in Rome. It's initially hinted that Octavian will be an abusive husband because of his sadistic tendencies, but we later see him and his wife having mutually rough sex and loving every second of it.
  • Used and mildly averted in CSI: Lady Heather is a female dom, but the episode that introduced her had her teaching a male client to accept his dominating tendencies, and later having one of her professional male doms teaching that client's new wife to be a sub (while the client watched). Another episode involves a professional dominatrix who sometimes played the sub and was killed by her (male) client during one such session. In both episodes the woman-as-dom is the dominant theme, however.
  • Subverted in an episode of Desperate Housewives called "A Spark To Pierce The Dark." In the episode, Carlos ties Gabrielle (Eva Longoria) to the bed under the impression that they're going to have kinky sex, but he then leaves the room because he's too tired. Eva Longoria herself has stated that she enjoys bondage in real life and is a submissive.
  • The American remake of Shameless shows Kevin and Veronica in a BDSM relationship with Veronica as the dominatrix.
  • Subverted in an episode of General Hospital where Maxie is handcuffed and having sex with Cooper in a hospital closet.

Web Comic

  • Pretty much the case in Collar 6: most of the Doms we've seen so far were female. Exceptions include the unnamed Epic Mustache Guy who appeared in two strips, a male dom seen in a flashback, and the unseen but plot-relevant character Michael Kappel. Most of the subs are girls, too, but that has been changing in recent strips, as male slaves started appearing. In this case, the use of this trope probably has to do with the writer/artist actually being a male sub belonging to a female mistress in Real Life.
  • In Shiniez, the main couple of the comic are Allison and Lisa, who are in a dom/sub relationship. The other couple, however, inverts this trope, with Alan, Allison's friend, as a dom and Anne as his sub.

Video Games

  • Back when City of Villains came out this enforcing this trope was used as the explanation for the inability to tailor the appearance of a Mastermind's minions. The game already allowed for giving minions lines to speak and emote commands (meaning they could be visually abused in various ways), and as a result the designers wanted to ensure all minions would be clearly male or sexless.
    • Familiarity and the dwindling of roleplayers dedicated enough to go to the trouble of individually roleplaying their minions has led to this being less noticeable, but the design restriction is still in place, and for the same stated reason. The people who do abuse their minions do seem to all be either dominatrices or male Bad Bosses where the abuse is clearly nonsexual.
  • The very obscure H-game Otome Rensa: Heart of the Distortion revolves around this.

Web Original

  • Zero Punctuation has a tendency to use BDSM imagery for comedic purposes, and when that is the case, this trope tends to apply
    • The one exception was in the Other M review when he depicted Samus being dragged around on a leash, but its probably okay because she's still wearing her suit and doesn't look like a girl. More to the point, it illustrated Yahtzee's opinion of Other M's writing.
    • The other exception was Lara Croft being flogged by her developer.
  • Lighter example because you can only have chains in fanfic and also nobody will hesitate to throw a punch, but That Guy With The Glasses. The boys tend to be easily dominated and enjoy it (The Nostalgia Critic likes dommy women so much that he's willing to be snuffed by them if they play a good song), while the girls are Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy at least or Bastard Girlfriend at most.
  • Averted in Chakona Space, in foxtaur society vixens are expected to be the dominant gender, Lorene had a lot of trouble finding a mate as she was a natural submissive. Then Garrek was raped by his sister using pheromones that screwed up his hormones and made him more aggressive, the village shaman suggested he try "venting" on Lorene.

Western Animation

  • South Park - An early version of the episode "The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers"featured audio of a man saying "Yeah, spank me".
    • Inverted with Mrs. Cartman and her German fetish videos.
  • All the time in Family Guy, with instances including Lois and Peter's sex life ("the safety word's banana") and some of Quagmire's escapades, like being with two dominatrices, and being tied to a chair and blindfolded by several Asian women.
  • All the time on American Dad!, too. Hayley and Jeff's relationship is explicitly shown to be this.
  • Averted in The Venture Bros., where Princess Tinyfeet is shown to be an enormous masochist. The Monarch is able to get into the Venture compound by bringing her as a bargaining chip to Sgt. Hatred. When Hatred sees her tied up and gagged, he believes she's being held hostage until the two villains reveal that she requested to be brought in that fashion.

  Monarch:She insisted that we drive her here in the trunk! She is a FREAK!

  • Mark and Cally's relationship on Ugly Americans is a good example of this trope. Cally proves to be a heavy sadist throughout the series, using a variety of methods to torture mark.
    • Inverted in the clone episode when Clone Mark tortures Cally instead.
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