Following our most recent exchange I am very thoughtful about the whole matter of man qua dom and its characterization (both from within and from without) verses man qua man, and what we think of him. The entire idea of a "dom" I find problematic for a whole host of reasons, some already touched upon, but not least of which for what a man must believe true of himself in order to buy into the concept, however it ends up showing up on him.
My historical knowledge is sketchy here, but the idea of the dom (as a kind of freighted shorthand for dominant male) is I think a fairly recent phenomenon, one that has evolved coincident with the advance of women's equality, which is a sneaky way of noting that manhood in its poetical and even biological dimensions has taken something like a walk in the wilderness over the past generation (and possibly longer). As a result I think both genders have for at least half of that time recognized that something is not quite right in the relations between them, but something different than what was not quite right leading into the feminist and now post-feminist revolutions. The animal nature of both men and women has been bound by a new set of rules that in their effect have corrected a great many social ills, but also fomented some interesting existential issues for people's expression of their essential biological selves.
I don't mean to suggest that such issues arise for everyone; maybe only very few are sensitive to it. Where they do, however, they can be crippling. Of all the women with whom I've played, everyone over, say, 35, has wrestled with her a priori identification of herself as a feminist and her apparently conflicting desire to be tied up, or more generally overcome and dominated (younger women seem less, but still a little, conflicted). It is a proverbial cognitive disjunct and is so common in my experience that I feel as if I have begun parroting myself whenever the subject is broached (which often issues in some form of "What does this say about me as a person?"). There is at once a thrilling sense that rules are being transgressed combined with an equally gravitational sense that there lurks some sort of moral failure, a duty to oneself that is not being observed. In no case is anything like a natural flow of feeling the first and most ready instinct.
Which is, regrettably to my mind, not so dissimilar from general attitudes toward sex characteristic of even earlier generations.
Men, as is our wont, react hostilely toward any limitations placed on the biological imperative of spreading ourselves thinly and using lots of resources (such as women). What has been good for social functionality has been damaging to instinctual masculinity, for there are simply too many of us men walking the earth for any of us to be free-ranging anymore. Of course pointing out the debasing of masculine gender identity is not only politically incorrect (since somehow men are still believed to hold most if not all of the cards), such an allowance by any man reflexively and further debases its claimant among those of his own gender, since it admits to a weakness which is not part of masculinity as gender construct or as biological agent. The only "men" who effect classic masculine stereotypes with no fear of interdiction are those in either gender transition or those of a lower order of class. In both cases overt masculinism is tolerated because such men are politically ennobled by their socially marginalization or economic oppression. But the gender indeterminate and gender-fucked people with whom I have played have a uniquely canny take on the fluidity of assignments and identity - to float at the flexible edges of correct anything is the only place anything important ever happens.
Thus do heterosexual men find not much with which to align themselves, and with even less by which to position themselves as exceptional (which, to certain people with a puritanically punitive sensibility, is as it should be, and is especially agreeable to the sort of men in public office and with public profiles whose testosterone so frequently crosses up their fragile egos (paging Elliot Spitzer)). This plays out in relationships as it does in the larger corpus of society. A pro-domme once noted to me that men cannot be submissive for fear of what either women or other men might think of them, nor can they be full-on dominant without being ridiculed in the popular consciousness. The rational choice is to keep up a neurotic straddling act and essentially cease to register anywhere with anyone.
It could be that we all come to the BDSM table "broken" in some conventional sense of that word, but so what? What we don't appear to be doing in large measure is coming as we really are - perhaps beaten down and eager for a refreshed self-image, believing in a vitality we once knew we had and in our own ability to have it again... in our own worthiness of feeling alive.
Men especially do not feel particularly worthy of the drives that give no other species pause. The idea that it is right and in the nature of people to inflame their senses, leave their heads, to swoop down and be swept up, to have struggle and suffering included as tonics to the all-too-quickly digested repast... all this is not well endorsed, not outside the precincts of fiction at least. So, most doms are just scared that any instinct they act upon might be construed as a factual self-affirmation, a statement of principle, as a look into who they really are, and thus an alert to God, mom and the psycho-industrial complex to swing into action.
In practice I think what we get to see these days are largely half-measures of men, dom or otherwise.
A bit of a ramble, but that's how it is sometimes.
Mac, the Biological Essentialist