Last week, I wrote about a cartoon that idolizes Black women from yesteryear and craps on modern Black women. One of the uplifted qualities of the 70s woman was “knows that she has more power being submissive to her a man.”  Unsurprisingly, many commenters latched onto the idea of submission and rallied against it.

“Submission” has become some sort of weird buzzword. The second a guy—always a guy—throws it into a conversation as a desirable trait, you can bet good money that an argument is about to ensue. It’s an exasperating conversation that women go ape s#@! over. We hear men say it and most of us envision a man wanting a woman akin to Vanessa Bell Calloway’s character in “Coming to America”, the type of woman who answers every question with “whatever you like” and will hop on one foot while barking like a dog—a big dog, if necessary—to please her man. Just the idea of it is enough to make many of us black out as we tough type an enraged response. As much as we try to convince and cajole guys to an enlightened perspective, they rarely budge. Maybe men are just that pigheaded. Or maybe something’s getting lost in interpretation between the language of Venus and Mars.

I like to think that most men are not Neanderthals and there must be some confusion of what many men mean when they say they want a submissive woman. So I asked my Male Mind Squad (if you read A Belle in Brooklyn, you know they address an array of topics in the book), my go-to group of thinking men across the country, ranging from their mid-20s to mid 40s and who are either dateable or would be if they weren’t already committed or married (because that’s the only kind we really want to hear from on these topics.) I prayed their answers wouldn’t reveal that their mindsets were from the Stone Ages.

The Good:

There’s hope. Most of the respondents didn’t expect a woman to submit, or even think she should. They even added some sort of disclaimer to their answers like, “I don’t believe in submission”.

“Submissive women” is an outdated idea from Biblical times,” said one guy. “The notion of a woman’s submission is the same as people believing a woman should wear a head covering or walk 10 steps behind a man. It makes no sense in this modern time and probably never did.”

In so many words, many men said what they wanted was a mutual submission, of sorts, or better, “compromise“. One guy summed it up nicely with: “I want her to be assertive and speak her mind. I do want a partner. I want her to lead in the areas where she is stronger than I…and I want her to do the same where I am stronger.”

Another added, “I don’t want a submissive woman, but I do like women that are confident enough to not always have to assert their independence. ‘Let go’ of perceived power sometimes and let me take on the stereotypical role.”

The Not So Bad:

When a guy says submit, what he’s really saying is—if I can be a Man Whisperer for a moment—he wants you to listen to him (which does NOT mean obey), he doesn’t want a lot of conflict in the relationship, he wants to know that you trust him (his judgment and to provide security) and he wants to at the very least feel like his needs/desires/input matter to you.  I wish they would just say that instead of “submit”, but anyway…

“Some women have too much to say all the damn time and refuse to just listen,” said one man. “Having a perspective and opinion is great but when you’re a control freak and your way is the only way, it will drive that man away… give him at least the illusion that he has some say in the relationship, otherwise he will check out mentally.”

Another explained, “We all want a woman that’s not going to create or feed into conflict based situations. Men are as sensitive and emotional as women, we just mask it in different ways. We ultimately desire partners who make it easier to hide that vulnerability.”

And one just made it simple: “Every once in a while, I just want her to do something she doesn’t want to do, but will do it anyway to make me happy as long as it’s a reasonable request. No man wants to know before he asks that the answer is going to be ‘no’”

The (Sorta) Ugly:

Some guys—and they were in the minority of the group who responded—think they are better at decision making solely by “virtue” of being born men. “Not to sound ancient,” one man began, all but letting me know he was about to say something wild. “But men are normally more logical when it comes to making decisions (versus  being emotional).”

Um… Ok.

Another guy added, “Male genome dictates we take charge. When sh** goes left, it seems men are better equipped to handle the fallout. How many times have you seen a woman get emotional when the s*** hits the fan? Most men just roll up their sleeves. Women, they cry. This is a gross generalization, but it has merit…. Can’t fight Darwin and evolution.”

Others believed strongly in the “natural order” of a hierarchy between man and woman and rigidly defined roles. “ I like a woman who not only accepts her role in the natural order of family and community––nurturer and builder of child and man––but swims in it, needs to succeed in it. She needs her man to feel successful in his natural role as provider and security (physical, emotional; many times financially), so facilitation is a part of her role’s duty.”

To his credit, he added, “The relationship should be reciprocal FYI. So it’s not about a man wanting a woman who is submissive as in weaker to his strength, but strong in her commitment and surrender to her role as his everything.”

And for some others—even the so-called enlightened ones—they wanted the ability to pull rank.  “I want to hear her point of view and opinion,” said one. “But I want my word to be the last word. Kind of like the President of a company does with his VP’s. There can only be one chief.”


Demetria L. Lucas the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. ABIB is available to download and now in paperback. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk

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  • Ang

    Show me a GOOD Black man and I’ll show you a submissive Black woman….To whom much is given, much is expected.

  • E.M.S.

    We as women do not allow ourselves to be second banana to a man because we know our worth. We know we deserve to be treated as an equal. Why would we subject ourselves to a relationship with someone who thinks they run the show? That’s not what love is.

    And a little newsflash for men who don’t seem to get it: In the event we do “submit”, recognize it’s not because you are the boss, it’s because we have learned how to play along to our advantage (a man whose ego is well stroked is more likely to sway on certain matters). You’re not number one by default or in actuality, we simply let you think you are.

  • It is all in how the couple takes “submission” into context. Some of you sound like you just want a room mate and not a life partner. I purposely kept the part of our vows of “Love, Honor and Obey” in my vows as I knew that my role of wife was going to be completely different from my role as girlfriend. We are amenable in our marriage and respect each others decisions. However, he is the head of my household and I respect him as a man and my husband.

    • African Mami

      Loool!! Girrrl, I ain’t looking for a roommate-craigslist can help me out with that. Life partner, it is…..He just has to understand that I ain’t with the submission blah blah blah. That’s all. Mind you, I’ll cook, clean, serve him (if I’m in the mood) not because it is expected of me as his wife, but because I want to.

      But, if it works for you and your marriage-kudos mami!! Happy for ya’ll.

    • SMH… you have to let a man be a man not just when you want him to. You cant want a gentleman all the time if you’re only a lady “if you’re in the mood”

    • African Mami

      I’ll respectfully agree to highly disagree with you.

    • MimiLuvs

      @ African Mami: I understand your point of view. I didn’t know giving yourself a night off from cooking gives your significant other the excuse to act like an uncouth savage towards you. Ha, what do you know? I learn something new.

  • I also don’t understand why it’s a problem if men think they handle crises better. If that what my man thinks, I’m all for it. I want him to think he’s good at handling crises… It’s good for his confidence lol. I’m all about making gentle suggestions and guiding men in the right direction… Cuz they definitely need our help for sure. But I don’t feel the need to go around telling ppl hat I run this house, or even that things are 50-50. My boo can have all of that lol.

  • Kaila

    I think the problem is today the word submit has a very negative connotation. Submission is something we all do. We submit to our bosses and the government everyday. It’s a matter of respect. Obeying means “to listen”. It doesn’t mean you can’t speak your mind or opinion but you respect your husband’s position as head of the house. There should also be a mutual submission (respect), not oppression. You are a team, but a body can’t function with two heads. You can communicate, but let your husband make the finale decision. With that in mind, its important who you choose as a husband.

    • Jae Bee

      How have you decided that the husband should be the
      rightful “head of house”? Is it because of tradition? Is it something biblical? What if a couple wants a nontraditional marriage? What if someone is not religious?

    • “With that in mind, its important who you choose as a husband.”

      This can’t be stressed enough, not just in reference to submission, but in every way. Choosing the right man is of utmost importance.