10 Tips For The Aspiring Feminist Dominatrix

If working at a Portlandia-esque feminist bookstore isn’t in the cards, here’s the short list of things to consider before you dive headlong into a new career as a feminist dominatrix.

Jan 22, 2013 at 11:00am | Leave a comment

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Illustration by Amie Wee.

Sticking it to the man –- sometimes quite literally -- for hundreds of dollars per hour must sound like a dream come true to feminists struggling to make it through the Great Recession. Unfortunately, being a dominatrix is not all kicking ass and smashing the patriarchy.

While dominatrices are seated at the top of the sex worker hierarchy -– where else would they sit? -– there is disappointingly little patriarchy smashing involved.

So what’s an impoverished Gender Studies scholar to do in this employment-scarce economy? If working at a Portlandia-esque feminist bookstore isn’t in the cards, here’s the short list of things to consider before you dive headlong into a new career as a feminist dominatrix:

1. Leave your politics at home, honey.

Nobody gives a damn about your women's studies classes. While most of your clients will likely fantasize about being ordered to sniff and lick your feet, which is actually one of the best parts of the job, they will not comply with or appreciate orders to read your favorite Audre Lorde essay. Do yourself a favor and accept this now: You cannot dominate anyone out of being a misogynist asshole.

When in doubt repeat this mantra: 

"The fantasy of heterosexual male submission doth not includeth Critical Race Theory.

The fantasy of heterosexual male submission doth not includeth Critical Race Theory."

2. Shave your pits and whatever else is hairy.

Your identity does not reside in your body hair. Like any job, being a dominatrix will require you to make some concessions about your appearance. You will make 10 times as much money working as a dominatrix if you shave your pits and anywhere else things get hairy. So suck it up, buy a composting razor from Whole Foods, and get mowing.

Seriously, this is going to take awhile. So just smile and be glad you'll never have to wear another green apron, Hawaiian shirt, or pair of sensible pumps to work again.

3. Leave your fishnets, nose piercing, pink hair, tattoos, plugs, and steel-toe boots at home with your politics.

While some clients dig the "alt-girl" aesthetic, you’ll make more money donning a lacy garter belt, five-inch stilettos, and bright red lipstick. You’ll feel better about consigning yourself to the normative notions of femininity at tax time when you get to write off your strap-on harness as an office expense. 

4. Do not use this job to work out your feelings of anger toward men or explore your sexuality.

Work your anger issues out with a therapist. Explore your sexuality with a trusted friend or a lover. Please, do not work out your feelings with your clients. BDSM can be cathartic, but it is far healthier to explore domination and submission in your personal life before jumping into the muddy waters of professional sex work.

5. If you’re queer, say you’re bi.

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Clients (and most people outside your radical feminist bubble) will think that you are a self-deprecating lesbian when you say “queer,” which is not hot to them and could (again) cause you, the entry-level feminist dominatrix, to lose money. Remember that "queer" has only recently been reclaimed as a word of empowerment and everyone -– including your clients –- wants to feel desired. (This is especially important when they’re paying to be whipped whilst sucking your toes.)

Draw healthy boundaries between work and personal life, and resist the urge to educate clients too much, by avoiding revealing personal information about yourself, your identity, and your politics.

6. Find someone to show you the ropes (figuratively and literally).

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Wish you were here.

It is imperative that you receive some training before you go off on your own; the skills you will glean from a mentor don't stop with rope bondage safety or how to piss on command. You're going to need to learn how to negotiate with clients, how to set and maintain boundaries, and how to avoid entrapment by law enforcement.

Just as you would apprentice for a couple of years at a tattoo shop, you can expect to apprentice with a good domme for three to six months before setting out on your own.

While those ads in the back of the city's free alternative newspaper –- Be a dominatrix. Will train. No experience necessary. Big Money. -- may be alluring, be sure to stay away from houses that are similar to brothels in structure and which traditionally keep more than 50% of your earnings. A “Head Mistress” is often little more than a glorified pimp.  

7. Don’t undercut your competitors.

Once you set off on your own, you may be desperate for money, but don't bust out onto the scene and weaken your local sex work economy by undercutting your competitors. Find out what the going rate for kink services is in your area and stick to it. It isn't in the feminist spirit to undermine the going rate of the other local female business owners.  

8. Don't assume your clients are [insert popular stereotype here].

Don’t assume your clients are stupid, pathetic, or rich white men in positions of power. (Although some of them will be.)

People from every race, religion, and social class seek out the services of professional dominatrices. You can expect to meet Mexican immigrant carpenters, rock musicians, Hasidic Jews, queer people, couples, brilliant artists, scientists, clergymen, curious college students, and stay-at-home dads.

There are many reasons a person might choose to explore submission with a professional dominatrix: They might be single, partnered with someone who does not wish to explore with them, or unwilling to expend the energy and risk necessary to find a suitable play partner. Your clients are real people with complex multi-dimensional lives. They will entrust you with their most vulnerable and embarrassing fantasies (and sometimes with their lives). Treat them gently and with respect until you step into the agreed upon roles. 

9. To be or not to be (out about being a sex worker).

Are you an exhibitionist? Do you like discussing the intimate details of your sex life? Do you relish the idea of total strangers becoming titillated and asking you about the freakiest thing you've ever done? If this all makes you cringe you may want to reconsider how "out" you want to be to friends, family, and casual acquaintances about your line of work.

If you think your foray into profession kink would be best kept secret, ask yourself, “Am I uncomfortable lying?”

Imagine who you will have to come out to and what it might look like. Who can or can't you tell? Are you comfortable with the idea of lying or skillfully avoiding the topic of your work at every dinner party, family function, and parent/teacher conference for the rest of your career? 

While the idea of lying might seem harmless enough, consider the distance it will create in your relationships. If you never tell your mother or sister what you do for a living, you may find yourself weaving lies, keeping your social circles isolated, and living with the ever-present fear of being outed.

Please also be advised that your dad, brother, uncle, or father-in-law might just happen across your online ad one day. AWKWARD. Don't worry though, he probably won't say anything.

10. Consider the risks.

What are the ramifications? Being a sex worker could cost you relationships with your family or custody of your children, jeopardize future career plans, land you in jail, or even get you on the registered sex offenders list (if you live in “progressive” California). It will be important to ask yourself, “Who else could be affected by my decision to do sex work?”

While domination and submission are the consensual exchange of power, professional domination is in many cases the fantasy of the exchange of power. When it comes down to it, you’ll be paid to act and to perform a service. You actively consent to permitting your clients to project their fantasies and desires onto your body. Although many of those fantasies include women in positions of power, when it comes down to it your client has a choice to pay you -– or the next girl. Or the next girl. Or the next girl.

Not exactly egalitarian, is it?

Only you can decide if you are ready to get in line.

Read My Article "Understanding The World Of Professional Kink" To Learn More