507. Discussion Topic Write-Up: A Brief History of FLR and its place in and out of BDSM

I am writing this from the standpoint of introducing these ideas and concepts as part of a Femdom discussion group and may include ideas and concepts that I have discussed in earlier posts.

Note: my background in the Femdom arena only goes back to the mid-1990s.  Much of the “early internet” was still available at that time and Femdom information became widespread and available to many for the first time.  I do not go so far back as the BBS era or when the majority of Femdom publications were only available in mail-order-based print form.  This is my account of the evolution FLR from its visible internet roots to present day.  I am writing this from my memory of my exposure to and participation in Femdom and BDSM starting in 1996.

I. What is FLR?

The term FLR stands for Female-Led Relationship.  Some people will use the modification WLM (Wife-Led Marriage), but they are for all intents and purposes, the same thing with the added stipulation of marriage.

Female-Led Relationships are generally considered to be romantically involved monogamous relationships where the woman holds the authority and power over the man.  The definition of this term has been very fluid over the years so it is difficult to nail down exactly what people mean when they refer to an FLR, but there are a few common characteristics that have remained the same since the term first became part of the alternative lifestyle vernacular.  Some of these include:

  • The woman has the final call in decision-making.  This may be as simple as something like where to have dinner or what movie will be watched or as important as where the couple will live or what house they will purchase.  It is basically a matriarchal head-of-household arrangement.
  • The woman may lay out rules the man must abide by.  While these vary greatly from relationship to relationship, a few common ones include what chores the man is responsible for performing, how frequently he is allowed to spend time with friends, when and if he is allowed to spend money to purchase something for himself, how he is allowed to spend his free time, if there are punishments involved for violating those rules, and so on.
  • The woman exerts control over the frequency and method by which the man experiences an orgasm.

II. Background and the Early Years

Almost all of the early BDSM resources had ties to the Old Guard Leather Community.  The Old Guard were basically the group that created the standardized definitions and ideas that formed the foundation of the BDSM community as we know it.  As such, the resources available during the early years of the internet were fairly consistent in the information that they presented.

These resources treated power exchange as a voluntary and consensual act.  Resources didn’t promote any ideas of gender supremacy, as the roots of the leather scene were almost exclusively M/m and emphasized submission as a choice.   Resources also didn’t promote much about people being “naturally” dominant or submissive.  In the Old Guard, to become recognized as a dominant, an individual first had to be a submissive.  Part of the idea was that this helped a dominant to truly understand the responsibility and care necessary for a sub’s well-being.  Being a “good dominant” was a combination of factors including effort, understanding, compassion, empathy, and a respect for the responsibility required of the role.

As people’s access to the internet became more widespread, participation in kink and alternative lifestyles grew rapidly, as for the first time, people were able to connect with others and locate events behind the shield of anonymity.  People no longer had to battle feeling like a pervert while going to adult bookstores and access to products, information, and local gatherings were now readily available.  There was also the ability for people to interact virtually for the first time, sharing in text-based fantasies while anonymously conversing with someone else.

I believe the first great swell in numbers of individuals practicing some form of kinky alternative lifestyle occurred during this era.  The increase in public participation was largely M/f, and the resources that followed were primarily voiced with gender-oriented pronoun usage: male pronouns for dominant and female pronouns for submissive.  The ever-growing numbers shifted influence away from the Old Guard and the community consensus began to reflect the ideas of the newer individuals that did not share the same background.

The roots of FLR benefited from the easy anonymous access to information in much the same way.  However, the early FLR resources existed completely outside of the BDSM community.  These early writings that circulated the internet pertaining to this lifestyle focused upon a couple of core principles:

  • Male sexuality could be easily exploited by a woman in a manner that would allow her to condition and control him to such an extent that she could seize power within the relationship.
  • A controlled male could be easily compelled to behave in a docile and obedient manner, allowing the woman to exert tremendous influence upon his behavior and to delegate to him the tasks and responsibilities of her choosing.
  • This type of relationship would lead to greater trust and intimacy between the man and woman.

In this era there were three authors that wrote extensively on this subject:

  1. Elise Sutton – Elise Sutton’s Guide for Loving Female Authority (website, she would later publish books).
  2. Lady Misato – Real Women Don’t Do Housework (website, eventually turned into a book, and there is now a multi-author blog under the same name).
  3. Georgeann Cross – Sexual Power for Women (book/website, it was available for download and never published in print form).

Each author had their own tone and points of emphasis but all focused upon women harnessing sexual power and using it to exert control over a man and the relationship.  Elise Sutton’s site had the greatest crossover into the Femdom realm and also promoted ideas of female supremacy/superiority.

The type of dominance highlighted within these works clashed heavily with the beliefs of the BDSM community for several reasons:

  • The woman was free to do this within a relationship without the consent of the man.
  • The woman could unilaterally impose her will upon the man without limits or any form of negotiation.
  • Ignoring the man’s needs or preferences is absolutely encouraged since the woman knows what is truly best for him.
  • The man does not need to be a submissive to achieve this lifestyle.
  • Gender supremacy.

Basically, the ideas here violate the core principles of BDSM, i.e. Safe, Sane, Consensual (SSC).

III.  The 2000s

The 2000s brought about some rather widespread changes in the way that kinksters interacted with one another.  Social media was starting to take shape.  Blogs and personal pages were becoming common, frequently replacing static media as popular resources.  Forums, message boards, and yahoo groups became the common meeting grounds for those involved in alternative lifestyles.  The first free kink-friendly dating sites rose up.  Text-based messengers became the common way to get to know someone before having to divulge any personal information.

In short, it became much easier to seek out partners to enter into an alternative lifestyle relationship with.  BDSM numbers continued to swell as it became easier to start, maintain, and remain in contact with local groups.  With blogs, forums, and early social media, there became a greater emphasis upon current/live content over static resources.

For the first time, it became easy for people to share their own personal experiences with the lifestyle.  Kink-oriented writing shifted away from encyclopedia-like databases of terms and explanations in favor of activities that people liked and their experiences with them.  This was especially pertinent to those who found the generically written resources didn’t represent what they did or what they wanted to do.  This allowed for individuals to connect with, learn from, and reference the experiences of others that held a similar philosophy to their own.  As things progressed, people began to individualize their own ideas about alternative lifestyles rather than having to conform to what was already known and defined.

The individualization of alternative lifestyles had both positive and negative effects.  It was a good thing that people were able to find their own way of doing things that worked best for them.  It wasn’t such a good thing that terms began to get diluted and it became much more difficult to communicate clearly with others when you weren’t sure what the words they were using meant anymore.  A byproduct of this was that it allowed for like-minded people to create their own groups, which led to the development of new philosophies and ideals that were tailored to differing lifestyles.  Another byproduct of this is that the influence and presence of the Old Guard was pushed out of the public eye.

The movement that began in the 1990s continued developing in the 2000s, with many individuals, beyond the original authors, promoting the lifestyle.  Elise Sutton’s site grew in popularity to the point where the majority of it was hidden behind a pay wall.  Books began being published that were available for purchase through mainstream media stores.  The blog and forum communities gave places for the ideas to grow and evolve in an interactive environment.  The concepts continued to grow in popularity, with one significant snag: there were not enough dominant women to go around.

It was in the mid-2000s that sites and individuals promoting this lifestyle began focusing greater efforts on attracting more women to the lifestyle.  A large percentage of the writing surrounding this lifestyle began to sound like a sales pitch:

  • Why a woman should want this.
  • Why this is better.
  • Why life should be this way.

As time went on, these attempts became more and more refined at trying to appeal to vanilla women, most commonly those who were already involved in a long-term relationship with a man who wanted to live this lifestyle.  I call it “this lifestyle” because it didn’t yet have a name and it was still entirely separate from the BDSM community.

It was in the latter half of the 2000s when I first encountered the term FLR.  As of this time, the BDSM community as a whole, largely practiced BDSM without a romantic relationship and a lot of people would play with a number of other casual partners.  Originally, the term FLR began to signify monogamous romantic couples engaged in a long-term relationship that practiced a 24/7 Femdom dynamic.  It was a flag meant to differentiate people from those who took part in more casual encounters.

IV.  Fetlife and Fifty Shades

I consider the creation of Fetlife and its opening to the general public (it was originally invite-only) and the mainstream success of Fifty Shades of Grey to be quite possibly the most influential events of the current era.

Fifty Shades helped push kink into the public eye and made it almost mainstream acceptable instead of being something perverse and taboo.  The rapid influx of new people into the BDSM community following Fifty Shades reshaped the face of the BDSM landscape.   As they entered in the era of individualized BDSM, terms became so fluid that it was like someone erased all of the known definitions in the dictionary and replaced them with whatever definition suited the person writing it.  Terms began to fluctuate regularly and become widely known by the definitions listed upon the easiest to find resources via SEO (search engine optimization) at any given time.

Before Fetlife, people participating in alternative lifestyles remained fairly scattered across their own forums, yahoo groups, blogging communities, and the like.  While different groups might have some overlap, for the most part they remained separate from one another.  What Fetlife offered was an encompassing meeting ground where all kinks, fetishes, and lifestyles were lumped together on a single site.  While this created plenty of friction, it also allowed for greater exposure of less well-known ideas and lifestyles.  Many originally fringe lifestyles finally gained exposure to a large number of people and people were able to browse through all that exists in one convenient location.

The combination of these two events stirred everything up.  Local BDSM groups began to increase in number.  The principles and rules that BDSM groups adhered to began to clamp down and get more rigid in order to protect wave after wave of post-Fifty Shades newbie that wanted to jump in without doing any type of actual research.

It was in this era of chaos that FLR and the BDSM community finally came to meet.  The trend in individualized terminology allowed for practitioners of this lifestyle to remove the original meaning of FLR and replace it with something else.  This is when early movement first became known as FLR.  Fetlife created the place where said practitioners could congregate, spread, and draw others in.

Fetlife also provided the first real interaction between FLR and the BDSM community.  Since then, the current form of FLR has become acknowledged within the BDSM community, although people who found Fetlife via FLR and not vice versa, tend to keep themselves mostly separate and prefer to congregate with others who believe in the same principles.

During this era there was still a shortage of dominant women.  While Fetlife definitely helped to increase the number of women that practice FLR, many of the FLR resources still focus upon appealing to vanilla women in hopes of converting them into FLR practitioners.  Around this time, a large part of their focus shifted to dispelling the notion of Femdom porn as female dominance.   Writings portrayed porn and pro-dominatrixes as the primary obstacles preventing women from embracing the FLR lifestyle.  This coincided with other attempts to sever male submission in FLR as a sexual fetish.

V.  The Current Era (The date of writing this is December 2018)

As time has passed, the FLR and BDSM communities remain somewhat connected, although the FLR community continuously makes efforts to distance itself.  This has been made easier by the gravitation of the BDSM community to focus more upon consensual impact play as well as the majority of the influx in the post-Fifty Shades era were practitioners of the M/f dynamic.

FLR as a term continues to evolve, heavily influenced by the most visible resources that write about it.  Because of this, you will find that people’s definitions of FLR vary to a great degree.  Someone that associates with FLR as it was known in 2013, may not find the 2018 version to describe them very well at all.  This again, leads to complications with communication and understanding what people mean.

As there is still a shortage of dominant women, the most recent version of FLR has been targeting kink as the obstacle that must be removed to draw in more vanilla women.  As such, several of the most prominent and current resources have begun disparaging those who wish to partake in kinky activities, frequently calling them out as fake.  They also wish to promote FLR as a purely non-sexual act.  Further attempts have been made to distance themselves from the term Femdom, at times leading to even more changes to the definition in order to differentiate the two as much as possible.  There are two kink-related activities that seem to be immune from this hunt:  Domestic Discipline and Chastity.

It is yet to be seen if the interest in FLR by women that already associate with the dominant role in BDSM will outweigh the attempts by prominent FLR authors to remove the connection between FLR and the BDSM community.

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8 thoughts on “507. Discussion Topic Write-Up: A Brief History of FLR and its place in and out of BDSM

  1. Thank you so much for this piece! As we have briefly discussed I find it very hard to explain what I do. I am not strictly FLR as I do have a very strong history in D/s and BDSM, so I combine what I’ve learned from FLR and only apply what works for me and will coincide with the BDSM activites that are utilized in my relationship. So am I FLR or a FemDom, why not both? I can see as the years progress that these two will become more fluid with each other, as long as people keep an open mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are very welcome.
      I personally view FLR as a form of Femdom. I closely associated with a couple of FLR’s earlier versions and found myself disappointed when the people at the forefront of the modern movement went out of their way to push “people like me” out of the term (something which started happening around late 2016-early 2017). As such, I stopped associating myself with the term and went back to the way that I have customarily described what I do: strict 24/7 Femdom D/s in a romantic, long-term relationship.

      As you describe yourself, I would say you are, “Old School FLR.” 🙂
      I am a strong supporter of people who choose to incorporate both FLR and BDSM concepts into a relationship. I believe that it is the kink/BDSM side of things that makes this style of relationship fulfilling for both parties.

      Thank you for sharing.
      Take care.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. History seems to change to suit the views of those who become part of it. Contemporary flr seems to be marketing by authors who would like to promote a romantic lifestyle that is based on a combination of chastity and empathetic happiness. It remains to be seen if these practices are sustainable in a LTR. BDSM femdom appeals to only a few but it has been around much longer.
    Your synopsis of the two movements are a good starting point for discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Dave.

      Another phenomenon that I am noticing within the BDSM community is that Dommes are starting to use FLR and 24/7 D/s interchangeably. However, most of them are referring to the definition of FLR that first became widely known on Fetlife, and not the more extremist views that are voiced on current sites specifically catering to FLR.

      I am particularly sensitive about this subject since I discovered the original authors very early in my process (before I knew what BDSM was). Since then I have watched how things have changed, sometimes for the better but often for the worse.

      Take care.

      Like

      1. Hi fcssy – do you consider someone like Elise Sutton to have an extremist view? Key Barret? Or who? I welcome your insight on the matter.
        Also by ‘old school’ flr, would you consider a submissive with a specific role like houseboy, pet, etc. To be in a flr if he lives with a domme for several years?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you, Dave.

          I’m not familiar with Key Barret’s writings. I did read Elise Sutton’s site for years and her first two published books. I have sort of split views upon this. On one hand, I think any time gender supremacy is involved, anything that follows will naturally feel extremist. I look at that aspect as the justification. If you remove the justification parts, I believe she has a very viable means of maintaining a 24/7 D/s power dynamic. One aspect that I appreciated about Elise Sutton’s writings (at least, what I had read) is that it seemed to take an inclusive stance to those already engaged in some form of Femdom power exchange, and accepting of the sexuality of both dominance and submission.

          Something that has bothered me with newer writers is that they take such an aggressive, hard-line stance on certain topics. The newer, “if you involve kink then you are fake and not FLR” or that “FLR is purely nonsexual,” stances seem much more extremist to me because they get serious upon exclusionary principles rather than inclusive ones. In my opinion, the spirit of the teachings had always sort of been, “As a woman I can make things however I want them to be.” Telling someone what is and isn’t “allowed” within that lifestyle seems like it violates that.

          I hope this makes sense.

          As for the old school FLR question, if it was monogamous romantic relationship, I would say, yes. Outside of those criteria, I would say, no. I don’t have anything against people who are poly or take on a formal service role (or other), but I do feel like back then, FLR was a flag that was used to distinguish it self in that way.

          Something I will note is that starting out around 2014 or so, I started encountering hostility from FLR bloggers (their circle is primarily on Blogger). I believe a lot of them were trying to shift the term to WLM (wife-led marriage) and if you weren’t Christian, married to the dominant woman, and about 10 other things, they didn’t want to interact with you in the slightest nor had any hesitation at being to rude to people who didn’t fit their vision of what things should be like. That felt a lot more extremist than anything else I had encountered up until that time.

          Take care.

          Like

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