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The Unshaven Dominatrix and Other Feminist Dilemmas

Question to the Sexpert:
Years ago when I worked in a House of Domination (Dungeon), I had a conversation with a girl who was not getting any business. She told me of her frustration, she couldn’t understand why she didn’t make any money. I thought I was being helpful when I gave her some beauty tips. She never wore makeup, her underarms and legs were always unshaven, she almost never wore different outfits (understandable given her financial situation) and she had a body odor. 

She became so angry with me and said she wasn’t going to change her appearance to conform to any stereotype. I then told her she was in the wrong business.

My belief is that in some businesses, to make inroads you have to play the part and look the part. Imagine a server with a dirty uniform. In your personal life you can look how you want to look but in business you have to wear a uniform of sorts. And men who are paying for sexual fantasy fulfillment don’t often fantasize about women with underarm hair, hairy legs and BO (unless they have that specific kink). There are some things you can’t do anything about, like being short or ethnic or not having a good complexion; all of the things I suggested were completely under her control and could have instantly changed her circumstances.

But after listening to your podcast, I began to wonder if I was wrong to advise her to change her appearance when she was clearly happy with it. 

Was I being sexist? Was there an inherent sexism in my advice to her?
Goddess Sonya

I am suddenly struck by the fact I don’t know the appropriate greeting for a Goddess. It would be easier if you were the Pope. I’d be all, “Hey, what’s up, Your Holiness?” And you’d be like, “So I’ve got a question about feminist etiquette in commercialized BDSM spaces,” and there we’d be.

In any event, this situation provoked a couple thoughts for me:

Crappy Corset: At Least it’s Not a Blockbuster Uniform, Right?

You’re right: we all must compartmentalize Work Me and Home Me. Work Me should be authentically me: for my career to be both fulfilling personally and also to be sustainable . But at points, my  at-work persona will be different than what I really WANT to be… and that’s why I’m getting paid.mcd

In that way, you were being pragmatic towards this girl, especially if she is working in a dungeon that is devoid of clientele who will appreciate her particular manifestation of beauty. It is not to say that her appearance is inferior, but that as a businesswoman, she needs to know her market and be able to reach them. Advice to change her appearance to match the situation is not inherently bad, but perhaps she would have been more receptive (but maybe not) to a suggestion to either try a venue that has more “alt” beauty ideals or to try marketing in a new way to reach the right clientele and bring them to her.

Sex Panther Cologne: 60% of the Time, It Works All of the Time

sex pantherThe other factor that comes to mind is that when we talk about someone with BO and hygiene issues, we have entered a territory of grave danger that, even when approached delicately, often leads to hurt feelings. Surely, there are cultural differences about smell- Americans have been socialized to prefer artificial odors over natural ones. Maybe she wants to actively reject that paradigm and rock her natural pheremones, but maybe (just as likely), she literally didn’t know.

Is it sexist to broach that? Only if we hold women to a standard of hygiene that we would allow men to casually disregard.

Feminism and Transactional Fantasy

You’re in a tough spot because, as you pointed out, the job itself is about fantasy: specific fantasy where men are dominated by women… usually beautiful and highly femme women. This highly feminine presentation is inspired by reality: some people really do have ludicrously long lashes and some people really do have naturally big, red lips. But we exaggerate these and other cues of feminine beauty, as they have been constructed over the centuries. That’s about providing a heuristic for the client that allows them to buy into the scene. domme

It’s really no different than constructing a big. intimidating wooden piece of furniture onto which to tie him or setting out a tray of floggers in plain sight. There’s a theatricality and performance required in BDSM.

And men who seek a Dominatrix may do so in part because they buy into traditional gender roles. These are the guys that are super powerful and influential in all the other parts of the lives and want to hand over the reigns for a release. Their kink is partly hinged on the role reversal: that they, the powerful man is being completely dominated by a highly feminine woman.

The irony is that this role reversal actually upholds gender norms, because the relationship between client and Dominatrix is still suuuuper traditional: man receives sexual pleasure, woman receives money.

So being  true to feminism in this space can already be a tricky thing. It’s totally do-able, but requires more complex thought than simply not shaving and saying, “fuck your fascist beauty standards.”

Being an Effective Rebel

My mom, an English professor, gives this advice to students: you have to know the rules in order to be able to break them effectively.

In the same vein, if this fledgling Domme wants to shatter the strict limitations of female beauty: cool. But first, she must acknowledge that the prevailing plusmainstream has a particular standard and that the majority of her clients will come from that population. She can either opt to take those rules and bend them…. or she can aim for a different population.

This is what “alt” modeling is about. It’s still somewhat rebellious and uncommon to be covered in tattoos and piercings, but Gods Girls and Suicide Girls make a killing by finding models who are conventionally attractive in most ways, but are “alternative” by having body mods. Alternately, most Plus Size models, while significantly larger than standard models, are still almost always conventionally attractive in all other ways. We can continue to expand the parameters of what is beautiful, but ultimately, we’re still talking about physical attractiveness, which is always going to be superficial.

You Smell, Wanna Be Friends?

I know you said you no longer work with this person, but let’s say you did. If you wanted  to maintain a relationship with her, I’d suggest revisiting  the conversation. Ask how it made her feel, what she thinks about what you said and, very importantly: what she hopes to gain from this job. Maybe she had unrealistic expectations of her career in the Domme field, maybe she could realize your good intentions and be more receptive to take the advice of someone who knows about it. That way, you two could continue the dialogue and learn from each other.

6 thoughts on “The Unshaven Dominatrix and Other Feminist Dilemmas

  1. Fabulous response!
    As both a pro-domme and as someone who mentors a lot of new people in BDSM (both professionals and lifestylers alike), you hit the nail on the head regarding compromise.

    Professional domination is an industry where we are selling a fantasy. The fabulous part of being self-employed is we get to balance that with being true to ourselves. The Mistress with no clients made the mistake of deciding she didn’t have to change for anyone, but then couldn’t figure out why she got no clients.

    I have my moments where I’d really rather not wear make-up. That’s called “the rest of the time”. When I’m working, I’m wearing contact lenses, cats-eye makeup and red lipstick. Fantasy requires a little effort. But that bit of effort goes a long way. 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for your input!

    Firstly, I really prefer to just be called Sonya. BDSM etiquette dictates that you call someone by their name and not their title unless you’re serving or wish to serve them. It always makes me a little uncomfortable when people think they’re required to call me Goddess, because it implies I expect everyone to bow down to me and that’s sooo not the case. So please, just Sonya.

    I wanted to comment on a few things you said in your response about the client and Dominatrix relationship.

    The idea that is unfortunately perpetuated by the media and even by many Dominatrices is that most men who seek domination are powerful men in all other areas in their lives. The myth, from my perspective, is that these men sought role reversal for a period of time to somehow have a brief respite from their powerful lives. In my experience this has not been the case at all. The very few ‘powerful’ men that I allowed to see me for the most part, wanted to retain their ‘power’. When they did seek my services, it was under a specific and narrow set of constraints that ensured that whatever fantasy they wanted to live out was consummated and that no other boundaries were crossed.

    The large majority of men that sought my services (and the ones that I preferred to see) are in fact naturally submissive men who are afraid to be their authentic selves with anyone but a paid professional. The reasons involve previous rejection, personal shame or fear of rejection by a partner who (or community that) expects them to uphold traditional gender roles.

    This leads me to the next idea, which is man receives sexual pleasure and woman receives money. I wish it were that simple.

    Many Professional Dominatrices play the role of therapist, marriage counselor, life coach, surrogate partner and confidante in some combination or another. That she’s pretty and smells nice is a cherry on top (and ultimately, what they are paying for, much in the same way a man who prefers to date highly attractive vanilla women understands he has to spend more money dating her). To reduce the relationship to simply sex for money reduces the complexity of the reasons a man will seek out a paid arrangement with a Dominatrix to begin with (mostly because sex is not the primary act or goal for that matter). This man longs for the acceptance of a like minded spirit who will not judge him for his proclivities and will help him feel good about being ‘different’ and not wanting to adhere to traditional gender roles. He doesn’t want to pretend to be controlled or enjoy ‘normal’ activities, he wants a safe place to be controlled or to indulge his fetish, even if it is for a fee.

    Men who pay for a Dominatrix tend to be professional men because it is an expensive service paid for with discretionary funds that only a person within a certain income bracket can manage. But there are loads of men who offer their tribute in non monetary ways (housekeeping, running errands, maintenance/yard work, child care, even yoga lessons for example) in exchange for being dominated on a regular basis. These men are not men in power, they are simply men who prefer a paradigm that is considered an undesirable one (being subservient to women, or enjoying participating in activities considered abnormal or deviant).

    Although the need to be dominated stems from a sexual place, it is not solely about sex for these men. In my experience, it is about a number of things, but primarily it’s about having a soft place to fall away from the real world of manly men who only enjoy asses and tits.

    I’m not denying there are men for whom the relationship boils down to an exchange of goods for services, but those men often have difficulty connecting with a reputable Professional Dominatrix and will either

    a) seek out young/inexperienced professionals,

    b) roam from ProDomme to ProDomme burning bridges until he is blacklisted, or

    c) seek out and/or groom a provider he can control like a kink-friendly escort or a stripper.

    I’m saying, in essence, that the relationship between client and Dominatrix is not super traditional. The dynamics of these relationship are not one-size-fits-all.

    Finally, I just wanted to reiterate that I did not tell her of her body odor for the reasons you listed above and because I felt it’s unfair to tell someone about something they might not be able to change about themselves. Besides, some guys might have either never noticed or been into it.

    Again, thank you for answering my question. I hope to pick your brain with more questions as they arise while I follow your show.

  3. Sonya, you make a number of good points. I don’t think the author of this articles is that well acquainted with femdom. As with sex-for-money situation, there are fantasists who pay to have their scenario enacted, and many clients are undoubtedly of the kind that the author describes. That is why the dominatrix is collecting $150-1,000 an hour for their services. At that rate it is astonishing to me that you would cook up some silly political snit about what needs to be done.

    At the same time, there are many truly submissive men who cannot find partners because of the unavailability of women who wish to be dominant in a heterosexual relationship. These men are forced to pay the astronomical rates that dominatrices charge; no discounts for them; in fact, the dommes are likely to exploit them through rhetoric like “fin dom,” a scam invented by millennial teeny-bopper dommes.

    The author probably spent a few weeks in a commercial dungeon or did not take the time to get to know clients. Ironically, a taste among some submissive men is unshaven underarms and legs, which is consistent with the feminist image. That the author of the article was unaware of this fetish, which is far from universal but frequent enough among male submissives, suggests that she is not as well informed as she claims.

    A question I have for the author is why it is unknown for women to say that they want to be dominant in a heterosexual relationship. If feminists believe in equality, then some personalities will express themselves as dominant and some as submissive, and there will be no restraints. In fact, I have never heard a feminist say that she is looking to be dominant in a relationship, but I have heard many feminists say that they fantasize about dominant men. In the end, your English professor mother and you are full of bullshit ideology and hypocrisy.

  4. Pingback: [NSFW] On feminist sex, submissive degradation, BDSM, consent, and Jian Ghomeshi. – I,Hypocrite

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