While dominatrices have managed to develop a reputation, there doesn’t seem to be much talk about professional switches or submissives. Yes, it’s true: Professional BDSM is not exclusive to professional domination.
My own experiences with professional submission proved to be frustrating at best, and harrowing at worst. I stopped taking purely submissive sessions because of the emotional toll they took on me. Professional submission is incredibly difficult! Professional subs have less control over the scene, which can leave them to the whims of a stranger: Some clients come in with unrealistic expectations, some are simply unfamiliar with basic etiquette, and others simply don’t know what they’re doing.
It is especially frightening to be under the control of an unfamiliar person when you consider that the lack of legalization and support for sex workers can leave us vulnerable to harm. While most of the clients are not out to legitimately hurt anyone, many of them don’t know how to play properly, which can create unpleasant results.
I consulted my fellow professional BDSM-ers who either currently work as professional switches or submissives, or have in the past for some of the tips they would give their dominant clients. There tend to be two approaches that dom clients take: Those who want to hire someone and get off on being dominant, and those who truly want to have both parties enjoy the power exchange. Neither of these are “bad” attitudes when it comes to a kinky business relationship. Although the two may have varying perspectives on their relationship with their provider, these tips will definitely improve the experience of anyone who is looking to hire a professional submissive or switch.
DO Approach negotiation on equal terms.
Negotiation is the first step in creating a satisfactory experience for both client and provider. As much as you may desire the power play, it is vital to discuss the terms of play on equal ground. While you may want to humiliate your submissive in all kinds of delicious ways, this is not the time to do it. Play partners (and lovers!) should always, first and foremost, be respected as consenting adult people. If you aren’t willing to negotiate on equal terms, you aren’t ready to play.
DON’T Subscribe to the mindset that negotiation ruins the “surprise”.
Negotiating doesn’t necessarily mean writing a precise script that must be followed step by step! It is possible to have spontaneity during play, even with prior negotiation. The idea that communication ruins the magic or intensity of BDSM (or of sex, for that matter) needs to die; it’s simply not true! Communication can actually enhance the experience, allowing for greater intimacy and trust between play partners. Plus, it can be titillating to discuss all the possibilities available for play.
Protip: Both submissive and dominant should create three lists that detail the activities they love, the activities that are okay, and the activities that are hard limits (meaning “absolutely no way, no how” activities). These lists make the non-negotiable boundaries clear, but still can leave a ton of activities to choose from!
DO Develop a relationship with your play partner.
Find someone you like to play with? Great! Woo them. Trust me, if you are seeing a provider, they are spending a significant amount of time prepping to see you and adjusting themselves to fit your desires. They are wearing expensive, often uncomfortable, difficult to maneuver outfits, fixing their hair and their nails and their teeth, and constantly brainstorming ways to make the most of your time with them. You will have the most success if you can be flexible and do the same for them. If you are striving for that intimacy I mention above, you have to be worthy of it. Trust me, you will find it worth your time when your submissive is looking up at you with their big, round, eager eyes, begging to serve.
DON’T Expect an unrealistic level of intimacy with a complete stranger.
It is unreasonable to expect to walk into a session with someone new and expect them to fall at your feet, ready to serve your every whim and share all of their deepest secrets and fears. You do not have a rapport with this person. They do not know what kind of person you are or if they can trust you. Sex workers are people too. Your provider, like any other human, takes time to get to know. There won’t be an immediate level of comfort upon your first meeting. Be okay with that.
DO Only participate in activities that have been pre-negotiated.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard horror stories about folks engaging in play that has not been pre-negotiated.
Before I stopped taking submissive sessions, I experienced a few of my own horrors: Once, during a switch session, my client decided to start a rape roleplay and later in the scene, started choking me without any prior mention of interest in either. Fortunately for me, I had a heads up from another provider who had seen him before that although he was relatively benign, he had pulled this sort of thing with her. I ended up using the safeword (which he begrudgingly acknowledged), and lectured him on the importance of bringing these things up prior to playing.
Behaving in this way is extremely violating and makes your interaction non-consensual. If it wasn’t explicitly agreed to, it hasn’t been consented to. You run the risk of (at least) alienating the person you’re playing with, if not actually hurting them (psychologically or physically).
DON’T Push boundaries, particularly for the sake of “getting a ‘real’ reaction.”
While I understand the desire for “sincerity,” it’s important to keep in mind that a good top, combined with the right D/s chemistry, can elicit the sincerity they desire. While I cannot speak for every provider out there, I can say confidently that many of the providers I know can and will honestly enjoy their sessions when they are paired with a skilled top. Sex workers can enjoy their job too, and to completely mistrust their word because you have a business relationship with them is unfair. One of the best ways to evoke that true enjoyment is to create a safe, comfortable space for your submissive so they can really let go! If they cannot trust you, they cannot get cozy enough to have any kind of genuine reaction.
Do you really want the person you’re playing with to be worrying about whether or not they can rely on you to respect them? Do you really want to spend your entire time together having them safeword over and over and over again, or potentially end the scene entirely?
While I hope that you’re the kind of top who wants everyone to have fun, even if you are only interested in your own pleasure, keep this in mind: You want certain things. Respect and trust, which are earned, are a good way to get them.
DO Honor safewords.
This should be a given. Once again, consent is sexy. While safewords can (and often are) used to stop entirely, they can also be used to communicate throughout the scene. The stoplight system is a tool I am especially fond of for this: “Green” means “Keep going! I love it! YES!” “Yellow” means “Slow it down. Take a moment. Pull back.” “Red” is, of course, “STOP.”
DON’T Shame your play partner for utilizing their safe word.
Do not argue with someone when they have used their safeword. While it can be fun to do a little teasing once you’ve established a relationship with a play partner, do not actually shame someone for enforcing their boundaries. Respecting that choice is how you develop a positive relationship and consensual play space.
DO Take the time to learn about the types of play you would like to engage in.
Part of the thrill of a lot of BDSM comes from risky or unusual play. However risky, though, there is a right way to do things. Safety should always be high priority! You want to be able to know how to work with the tools available to you and to create the kind of scene you want, which you cannot do if you don’t have the skills. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Chances are your provider knows how to do what you would like to learn, and trust me, they will be all too happy to give you tips.
If you find it too embarrassing to ask your provider, there are tons of classes, books, websites, and meetups dedicated to helping people learn and develop skills. Check Fetlife for local events or classes that can help you! This will help your level of comfort, increase your ability to control the scene, and when your pro-sub/switch recognizes your experience, they will respect you and feel more comfortable with you. More fun for everyone!
DON’T Let “reality” ruin your scene.
Nothing goes as smoothly as we would like to imagine it would, and sometimes clumsy, funny, awkward things happen during play. Sometimes you need to check in and keep communicating during the scene to make sure that everyone is still on board.
True story: I am not known for being the most graceful lady. Recently, I was in session with a regular who I had stripped, blindfolded, and restrained. Just as I was threatening him with some of my sadistic plans, my six inch heels came out from under me, I let out a loud, “WHOOP!” and fell on my ass. Hard.
I laughed, told him that I was blaming him for not catching me (“But Mistress! I’m handcuffed! Are you sure you’re okay?!?” “Oh, I’m fine. It doesn’t matter if you’re handcuffed; you’re responsible for making sure I don’t fall!!!!”), and that I was taking my goddamn shoes off. Then we continued.
You can’t let these things ruin your good time! If something goes awry, that’s okay! Keep communicating, laugh it off, and move on.
Protip: The more you focus on it as something that “ruined the flow”, the more likely it is to have a negative effect on your scene.
DO Have a goddamn fantastic time!
Hopefully, this one is obvious.
While it may seem like a lot to remember, these tips can help you significantly improve the time you are spending with professional switches/submissives. Who knows? Perhaps they’ll rethink some of those “No list” activities that you are so eager to try. The key is to make sure to make it clear that you are flexible, respectful, and willing to work within their boundaries. There is no guarantee, but a willingness to try new or scary things are only fostered by trust, communication, and care. The most important thing to remember is that the entire exchange is improved by mutual enthusiasm!
Extra special thank yous to all of the professional BDSM folks who offered their input for this article and to webcomic artist Nic Buxom for letting use her art once again (check out more of her adventures in pro-BDSM here).
Tizzy Wall is the Playpen Report’s petite spitfire sex-worker, here to talk about queerdom, sex work, and other kinktastic wonders. Take a peek into her big, lovely brain on both Tumblr and Twitter, or like her on Facebook. Have specific questions, topic requests, or the sincerest of flattery to offer? Email her !