Sex Escape: Why Do Men Go to Dominatrixes?
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While Natasha Strange, who has worked as a domme for almost 20 years, has had plenty of “men who are powerful and want to give up control for a bit,” she’s also had tons of “musicians, cab drivers, pharmacy reps, teachers and your basic blue-collar workers who are just kinky and want to feel desired for an hour or three.” Interestingly enough, she says, “The very first female client I had was a housewife and a mother of two.”
As Febos suggested, these desires can arise from disempowerment. While New York-based Maya Midnight has some high-powered clients — after all, they are the ones most capable of regularly paying for her services — she says, “I get far more clients who experience loss of power in their day-to-day lives and have fetishized it.”
Roiphe’s suggestion that women’s submission fantasies are indicative of an underlying longing for the way things used to be, pre-feminism, seems particularly questionable when compared to “race play,” which Mistress Justine Cross describes in an email as “capitalizing on themes of racism in mainstream society, i.e., degrading a submissive using racial slurs, and redeploying those themes for sexual pleasure.” It seems patently absurd to suggest that an African-American man who eroticizes racism has a deep-seated desire for the days before the civil-rights movement. Should it be different when it comes to a woman longing to play-act a “sexist” fantasy?
Often enough, the “roots,” as Midnight calls it, of submissive desires can seem rather random: “One client saw a movie when he was a teenager where a woman kicked a man in the balls and has been into ball-busting ever since,” she says. “As a child, I got told off for hitting a man in the crotch with my stuffed penguin and now I love hurting balls. Go figure.” Sometimes these desires emerge at a young age (dominatrix Cybill Troy tells me, “I have personal slaves as well as clients who showed signs of their interests as young as toddlers … a 3-year-old with a tendency to crawl into cupboards who grows up to love being caged and contained both physically and mentally, for example”); other times they only surface well into adulthood.
Some believe that S/M fantasies are like dreams in that they can be difficult to fully make sense of: “I believe that they come from creative and imaginative minds that may mix the powers of everyday rituals and roles into a more complicated and interesting puzzle than the usual vanilla missionary routine,” says Yin Q., a dominatrix turned BDSM educator.
Of course, actually visiting a dom or dominatrix is much different from reading a page-turner about an S/M relationship. “Fifty Shades of Grey” tells us what many women want to read about, but it doesn’t tell us what these women are actually doing in the bedroom. Lady Cyn Aptic of Los Angeles points out, “In many cases people’s eyes are bigger than their stomachs and they prefer the fantasy to reality.”
That fantasy has become much more mainstream as the sartorial trappings of BDSM have been adopted by some of pop music’s biggest female stars, with Rihanna and Lady Gaga devoting songs to “S&M” and liking it “rough” (as I wrote about in a piece last year headlined, “Is kink the new girl-on-girl kiss?”). “I think there’s been a trend toward making the naughty more mainstream; it’s just a modern version of the bodice ripper,” says Olivia Vexx of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” “[It's acceptable now for] a soccer mom to go buy a bodice and a whip.” Strange says, “When I started as a domme, it was near impossible to find thigh-high boots” — but now she says, “I can go to pretty much any suburban mall.” Maybe we’re finding more evidence at this cultural moment of women entertaining submission fantasies simply because it’s more acceptable.