He arrived at the dungeon with bleary eyes and a melancholic look. Based on his jitters during negotiation, I could tell that he was unsettled.
“I want you to hit me. You can do that, right?”
Prior to this our sessions had been primarily sensual, and more focused on light power play, less corporal punishment or pain.
Even so, I had to contain my laughter. His naiveté was so sweet.
“Well, that is what we do here.”
“Okay. Okay. Let’s do that then. And…marks don’t matter. Hit me as hard as you can.”
“Marks don’t matter? Are you sure about that? That’s…a little different than the last few times…”
This was no unfamiliar client; this man had come to me several times over the last few months, with the time between sessions rapidly moving from three weeks apart, to two weeks, to several times in a week. He had never explored his kinky fantasies with a pro-domme, and thanks to the internet, he managed to stumble across me. He was not my first regular, but he was the first client that I developed deep affinity for. Our dynamic has turned into a sort of offbeat friendship; we went from the standard client/pro-domme exchange to having each session turn into a long conversation about our perspectives on the world. He tells me about his kids, his conflicts with his wife, and his work life, and I share with him rants on feminism and the books I am reading. It is a strange relationship: Based entirely on the business transaction, but also fun and affectionate.
“I’m sure. It doesn’t matter. I want you to mark me. I want to feel something. I just want to feel something, you know?”
My first thought was: How can he go home with marks on him?
He had spoken of his deep, unshakable love for his children and his wife. While it is clear that he has been unhappy, rarely are rash decisions known for their wisdom. Hypothetical scenarios ran through my head: What drastic mistake did he make? Did he do something stupid? Is he planning to get “accidentally” discovered? He rebuffed my attempts to sidle into the conversation that would elicit the answers to my questions.
We finished our negotiation, he offered his payment, and I walked out of the room to put away the cash. As I counted the money and shoved it into my bag, I consulted a more experienced coworker in the dungeon. I told her that I thought he had made a terrible mistake, and that I was apprehensive to go through with aiding him in it. Matter-of-factly, she responded to me, “He may have done that, but honey, you know what? That isn’t really your problem.”
“Yes,” I responded, voice hushed, “but what if he did something stupid?”
“Honey,” she told me, “That isn’t part of your job.”
My heart plummeted. She was right: His “real life” emotional issues are not my responsibility. Any of the negative repercussions he chooses to endure after he leaves the dungeon are not my business. My fear for him as a friend, as a fellow human, are irrelevant; I was hired to enact certain tasks. I was hired to hurt him the way he wanted. Despite the fondness that had developed between us, I was hired to perform, not counsel. Newsflash to self: You are not actually his therapist.
I pumped myself up, put aside my concerns, and swished my hips back to where he was waiting. We went into session.
His nerves were still obviously on edge when we started, but he immediately obeyed my command to remove his clothes. I cuffed his wrists and ankles to wooden beams set up in the dungeon. As I slipped the black blindfold over his eyes, I playfully said, “Goodbye!”
The tension between us was palpable. I flogged him and caned him, covered him in clothespins, and left him marks across most of his body. For an hour, we fell into a rhythm of blows, and I repeatedly took him to the edge of his tolerance, then let up. He begged for more. The room had started to heat up, the air heady with his desire and my focus. I twirled around him, capitalizing on his absence of sight with calculated sounds and brushes of skin. I ran my nails down his back, striped red with marks from the flogger, digging them into the sensitive skin that had already been so well abused.
During a moment mid-whipping, he said to me, “I don’t know what just happened. Something just changed. The pain is different. It’s still there, but it feels different. This feels good.” He was astonished, at a loss for how to further describe what he was feeling. Shortly after that, the bullwhip did him in. He cried out “yellow”.
It was immediately clear, though, that his call for slowing down was actually a full stop. He didn’t want me to be disappointed; he kept apologizing for even calling out any safeword at all, but I reassured him that it was the right thing to do. I told him how much I appreciated his communication. After removing his restraints, I gently guided him over to the couch and sat next to him, offering him a glass of water. While choking up, he repeated, “I don’t know what happened. Something clicked. Something
We sat and talked for the remainder of his session. I mostly listened, and counseled him on the importance of heightened self-care over the following days. We talked about the possibility of sub drop, how it could manifest, and what he could do to take care of himself. Before he left, I gave him a giant bear hug.
After I closed the door behind him, I let out a giant sigh of relief. I was immensely glad that I had set aside the initial knee-jerk reaction I had to his request. It felt like a risk. There was an elevated level of investment which leaves for a greater margin of error. This is what he wanted, what he needed, and he trusted me to take him through to the other side.
As time has gone on, I thought that this job would get easier as my technical skills improved. I thought that, like so many other jobs before this, time would give me absolute guidance, and that I would suddenly be able to walk into every session knowing exactly what I was doing. How silly of me to laugh at his seemingly childlike questions when the same experience exposed some of my own. Unpredictable variables. The only way to get through is part intuition, part communication, and part compassion.
I knew that he had to trust me; he was relying on me to create a safe space for him, to guide him through the experience, and to read him as we went along. What I didn’t realize is how much I needed to trust him, too. I had to trust him to communicate with me, to believe that he could tell me what he wanted and to respect that he knew himself well enough to ask for it.
What I didn’t realize is that this experience changed something for both him and me. How foolish I had been to not understand the gravity of what I had been proffered. How foolish I had been to not comprehend the level of intimacy that even these “business transactions” can reach. They are a gray area, outside of any definition I have encountered otherwise. Not close enough to ever be equated to a date or a friend, but not far enough to call an acquaintance.
When signed on for my role as dominatrix, there was no warning for how personal these connections could become. While it seems obvious that these submissives are trusting me with their well-being, I did not realize how much I would need to trust them. While my counseling background is immensely helpful for the parts of this work that require listening, assessing, and validating, the savior complex that lingers from that past can be a detriment. This interaction demonstrated that it had no place here, and it was arrogant of me to ever assume that it did. Who am I to save anyone? Perhaps I was never the superhero I thought I was anyway. Perhaps it’s not for me to save people who are perfectly capable of saving themselves.
The relationships that fall within the gray area, beyond any kind of title or comfortable box of accepted responsibilities, require an additional level of faith and communication between both parties. I don’t know that there is a “right answer” for how to do this well; relationships (all relationships) are a perpetual effort to do the Right Thing and hope that things go well. It is not for me to laugh at anyone’s naiveté when this work calls for constant re-evaluation and introduction to the nuances of relationships and sex.
I am still not sure that the decision I made to go through with the session was, at the outset, the most ethical, but it comforts me to know that the outcome was positive. The vulnerability that is required to engage in sincere human interaction, to practice that radical compassion that I mentioned before, is something that, surprisingly, working as a dominatrix has emphasized more than ever. It is easy to whittle people down to objects, to see the “business transaction” as impersonal, but it isn’t real. It isn’t true. If nothing else, my days as a domme have taught me that.
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 about the domme world, topic requests, or need advice? Email her !