Bartending for a photographer’s book release party is nothing new. But, the words “in a private bondage gallery” add an entirely different spin. Especially when the short, wild-eyed photographer looks at you and asks, “Have you ever thought about being a dominatrix?”
The subsequent ding-ding-DING! noise resounding through your brain wipes out your disdain for his 5'4" stature and rescues you from having to volunteer to be tied up by the partygoers. A corset, being called Mistress, and learning how to crack a whip all seem fun. But, you dismiss the question. Your tips from the last eight hours only amount to $40.
Two years later, you remember the little guy when you come across his Craigslist ad. Still curious about his question, you call him. Not only does he remember you well, he agrees to put you in touch with Mistress Aphrodite — a professional dominatrix who’s been in the game for ten years — and volunteers to put a good word in for you.
But, when he asks you to bartend for his next party, you politely demur.
The photographer makes good on his offer, and you and Aphrodite exchange introductory emails. After playing phone tag, you rock down to Manhattan to meet her for an interview at her dungeon. When you arrive at the address, you notice the building looks like every other concrete edifice in the Garment district housing wholesale clothing businesses, shops brimming with shady deals and goods that fell off the back of a truck. Riding up the dirt-strewn, compact freight elevator, you figure anonymity must be part of the deal. Especially since the dungeon's name isn't Dommes R Us.
When you reach the fifth floor landing, you steel yourself to meet Aphrodite outside a wide, heavy-looking metal door. You have no idea what she looks like; you wonder if she's a femme fatale goddess a la Bettie Page, or if she has the feline sensuality of Selina Kyle. But, a plump brunette lass with Swiss Miss pigtails and black tights answers the door. You ain't no Afro-dite.
The Swiss Miss lookalike doesn't notice your crestfallen expression, and tells you she is Aphrodite's assistant. With the light voice of a nursery school teacher surrounded by two-foot charges, she cheefully informs you that the lady herself is running late from the gym and invites you inside the dungeon doors.
Instantly, you feel like a Japanese tourist smack in the middle of Times Square. As Swiss Miss escorts you down a dimly lit, bright red hallway decorated with kitschy fetish pictures, part of you wishes you had a camera. Not only do you gawk at the graphic bondage photography on the walls, but a ten-foot poster of a dominatrix wearing a strap-on stops you dead in your tracks. O-kay.
You turn from the slightly unsettling poster and notice the closed doors alongside you, and wonder if anyone’s getting the shit beaten out of him. Peeking into a half-open door, you see a shirtless guy in sweatpants standing next to a girl who must be a dominatrix. You wonder why she’s wearing boxing gloves and a red dress instead of a corset.
Noticing you, the girl in the red dress smiles -— then shuts the door with a boxing-gloved hand.
Swiss Miss calls your name with her sweet, singsong voice, opens the door to Room 1, a dark red, dimly lit space that resembles the torture chamber theme room in a pay-per-hour motel. She tells you to make yourself at home for the next few minutes and leaves; when she does, you continue gawking from a leopard-upholstered chair you park yourself in. You glance at the studded handcuffs next to your head; you cock your head at what appears to be a piece of gym equipment customized with wrist and foot cuffs. You wonder if you can pull off the gig while having no idea how smacking someone’s ass in this room will be, but the muffled ooof you hear from next door makes you think beating someone up for kicks must pay anyway.
A sound in the doorway catches your attention, and a young woman with wet hair and fuschia sweatpants dashes in. Apologizing for her tardiness, Aphrodite introduces herself and shakes your hand, and you forget your nerves. Pale and petite with long bleached-blonde hair, Aphrodite radiates the bright aura of a football cheerleader instead of the dark beauty you imagined. Noticing her butter-yellow T-shirt, and white sneakers with pink and white polka-dotted ankle socks, you wonder how on Earth she could be a dominating femme fatale. But, she’s the expert who sits down on the specially crafted bondage bed across from you.
You have to impress her.
As you describe your Daisy Duke bartending gig, you see Aphrodite visibly warm up to you. She is relieved you aren’t fresh off a bus from Ohio and that you've got a few street smarts; since you are accustomed to handling unruly drunk men easily, Aphrodite is confident that you’ll be just fine in her dungeon. She asks you how soon you can start.
Elated, you pick a date and she agrees to it. You can’t wait to suit up in corseted outfits you noticed in Batman Returns, Underworld, and even Dangerous Liaisons. But, before your excitement can totally sink in, Aphrodite looks at your short, bobbed haircut and asks, “Would you mind wearing a wig?”
You shrug. Sure. Why not.
Soon, you start logging your time at the dungeon. Full of hard-core chicks all about the money, you’re immediately leery over possible cattiness and your menstrual cycle going bonkers. At first, the other dommes treat you as the distinctly new kid in in the cell block; they are indifferently polite to you, and you're iceberg cool in return. But, on instruction from Aphrodite, some of the others warm up to you. Especially since you need to be trained.
The first part of your education acquaints you with the costume trappings of the domination trade: corsets, hot pants, stockings, and mini dresses. With Aphrodite and other dommes in the dungeon, you develop an eye for vinyl, leather, latex, and satin. You scrutinize bustiers and waist cinchers, wondering how durable the boning is; the first time you are laced into your corset, you are immediately impressed at how two inches disappear from your waistline while struggling to breathe. You drool over a long black latex dress Mistress Alina owns because you’d love to slither into a room with liquid effect as she did. But in the meantime, you appease yourself by buying a pair of black vinyl Mary Jane platform shoes, with five-inch fetish heels that strain your ankles as you practice walking in them. There’s no doubt you look hot in those nosebleed heels, but falling over while in session will suck.
As Aphrodite suggested, you also buy two wigs. One is a short bobbed black pageboy that resembles Uma Thurman’s look from Pulp Fiction, while the second is a long dark wig with bangs, layers. The latter looks so natural that people mistake it for your actual hair when you wear it down the street for kicks, and is deemed your winning look. Every time you put it on, you marvel at how you once again look like the trendy Asian girls walking around Soho and Chinatown, the ones you purposely spent your life distinguishing yourself from. You get a kick out of wearing it, but a little part of you wonders if people would find you more attractive if you quit streaking your hair in nuclear tones and grew it out.
After you assemble a Bad Girl Wardrobe and Look, you meet the accessories: floggers, wooden paddles, crops, ticklers, and rope. Other dommes at the dungeon give you twenty-minute crash courses in how to wield each; using the flogger comes easily to you because of your previous tennis and Ultimate Frisbee experience. You learn how to crack it in punishment with a stiff wrist and gently for pleasure, and mentally wish Santa would give you a crop engraved with Badass Motherfucker.
Alas, though you become adept with the flogger, the rope puzzles you. You don’t derive affinity or sensuality from the big pile of woven nylon at your feet, one you just try not to get entangled in. Aphrodite suggests practicing different knots and attending a seminar so that you can be the house’s rope bondage specialist; Mistress Wylona takes you to one, and allows you to practice tying her up. Mistress Ginger also tells you to skip the sex shops and buy your ropes in bulk from Home Depot. Your blue-collar contractor buddy Spiro teaches you how to make a Monkey's Fist, and purposely gives you a massive one to use if anyone fucks with you.
But, of all the fetish accessories in the house, what makes you jump for joy is the one you've been waiting to meet: the whip. Mistress Alina hows you how to wield her dogsled single tail whip—a David Morgan, the very person who supplied the whips in the Indiana Jones movies and Batman Returns. The first time you crack it, you jump at how loud the snapping sound is; Alina informs you that you are breaking the sound barrier every time you crack it right. On one of your next few tries, you accidentally nick yourself and leave a scratch on your back that takes three hours to swell down. But as you crack the whip repeatedly, your skill increases with your delight; oddly enough, the snapping sound eases your stress and helps you focus your day-to-day anxiety. Eventually you give the whip back to Mistress Alina, wishing you didn’t have to, but deciding that you will someday own one.
The last part of Introductory Domination 101 is deciding your Mistress Name. Since you are to be the dungeon’s token Asian Spice, you debate various exotic monikers with Aphrodite and several of the other dommes, whose names of Kasha, Ginger, Wylona, Sybil, and Alaia just sound cool. You’re okay with playing Miss Asia Pacific, but don’t want your name to be the lamest one in the Dungeon League.
Of all the names lobbed back and forth, one continually surfaces as a suitably Asian alias: Sayoko. Aphrodite says the Japanese-sounding name will sell your looks to prospective clientele, but you don’t dig it. Sayoko seems to be missing the feisty oomph with which you usually work your own name. You’re also 100% positive that every guy with an Asian fetish will ask you why you’ve got a Japanese name when your looks show that you’re not; some of the clientele can identify Asian ethnicities better than you do. You suggest Ming and Jade -- the one-eighth of you that is Chinese can connect to those more.
However, the other dommes troubleshoot your ideas. Mistress Kasha tells you that Ming is a submissive’s name; since you’re here to dominate instead of submit, you withdraw it from contention. You likewise back off with Jade -- according to the others, Asian dommes named Jade are a dime a dozen, and you most certainly are not generic in yellow packaging.
Thus, Sayoko is assigned to you. The name still annoys you because it elicits Sayuri from Memoirs of a Geisha, and Zhang Ziyi’s Cinderella aura and mangled English still annoys you to this day (especially since you’re a Michelle Yeoh devotee). But Aphrodite intervenes with a possible advantage: since Mistress Sayako apparently retired, the minute spelling difference between your names may direct some of her old business to you. Her point brutally reminds you it’s all about the money, honey.
After your fast-forward, crash-course domination education, you are booked for your first one-hour session. Your client is a blue-collar guy whose express desire is to be manhandled as a woman. In spite of your ankles aching in your nosebleed heels and lingering annoyance at your alias, you are perfectly fine with letting your client know you're in charge and that his name is Yvette in your presence. Nor do you judge him for enjoying every moment as your bitch.
At the end of the session, adrenaline invigorates your entire body; you are thrilled you didn't fuck up or fall over. The cherry on top of your non-vanilla sundae of achievement arrives in your $90 fee for an hour's time -- with an additional $40 tip from Yvette.
An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
11.14.07 @ 12:29a
That was an awesome read. I was captivated from beginning to end. Since we're sharing, my captivation partially stems from the fact that I've thought - for YEARS - that being a domme would be a fun job. Just...never had the opportunity to try it out. Maybe I should. Better pay than a nanny...
11.14.07 @ 4:07a
I'm jealous. That sounds like fun. And Maigen, think Domme Nanny. A sort of Mary Poppins in leather.
11.14.07 @ 4:35a
I'm glad you guys dug it. My latex chapter of experience is unforgettable, and whenever people ask me about it, they usually ask about little things, so I opted to share a behind-the-scene perspective.
And oh, by the way, I now own a David Morgan single tail, and I still crack it.
11.14.07 @ 5:36a
hawt. robert, that could totally be what sets me apart...
also, alex, expect me sometime after the first of the year for lessons, mkay?
11.15.07 @ 10:40a
I liked the second-person narrative.
11.15.07 @ 2:41p
Thanks Kraemer... I've been dying to crack that narrative, and it turned out to be a whole lot of fun.
Hee, Maigen, when you get here, I have a nice long story to tell you in first-person.
11.16.07 @ 6:16a
I have to remember to call you Sayoko !! I'm always intrigued with your past experience as a man kicking bitch. One question, was it always men?
11.16.07 @ 10:30a
Actually, I hear she also used to beat up bunnies. Really mean bunnies.
11.16.07 @ 5:25p
HA! No, I never beat up any bunnies. But yes, I always dealt with men. Every once in a while a couple would come through and book some time at the dungeon, but the vast majority of clientele consisted of guys.
11.17.07 @ 8:24a
Alex, this is a riot. How long did you do this?
11.17.07 @ 4:38p
Hi Tracey! I did this for about 4 months. The experience was a huge trip- meeting women from different walks of life who were dommes, and meeting guys who I never expected to be the kinds to book a dominatrix- including a huge sect of very traditional Hasidic Jews. There were times when this was a riot to pull off, and others where I just scratched my head. (I might have to do a sequel here... hee.)
11.18.07 @ 12:40a
I'd be curious as to what made you quit? Are you still a dominatrix at heart? How did it change your view of men? Women? The adult entertainment-type industry? Dating? Those would be good questions for a follow-up.
11.18.07 @ 3:40p
Robert, I am planning a sequel now. And I will take those questions in there :-)
12.4.07 @ 11:59a
You should read "I Was A Teenage Dominatrix." It's a fun read.