Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.
There is no human experience so intimate and personal that people won’t publicly dissect it. Childbirth. Funerals. Cancer treatments. And sex. I agree with much of what has already been said here on T&S about the problems inherent to some sex work review boards. The whole concept of reviewing an erotic encounter that one was a participant in is an odd idea; it’s like having like a theater critic be in the cast of the play. How can one ignore the fact that the critic played some part in how the show turned out? But, especially with experiences that touch on primal emotions, people search for ways to bring some intellectual analysis to what they are feeling—with mixed degrees of success. Some sex worker reviews are truthful, insightful, and useful: others are more like naked bathroom selfies of the reviewer, with all the perils inherent to that art.
I’ve been reviewed, as an escort and as a pro domme, on both escort boards and sites specifically about professional dominance. Some reviews were positive, some not so much. Of course I prefer the paeans to my beauty and skill—who doesn’t? But I’ve learned to not take any of them too seriously, because I got toughened up in an equally merciless school: reviews and comments on my writing.
I’ve opened every Tits and Sass article I’ve written by talking about how disgruntled I am. Let’s not stop now. To reiterate, I got into this industry largely out of desperation, found the niche I hate the least (pro-switching) and currently spend half my time building my business and the other half trying not to tear it down. Needless to say, I was pretty sure that I didn’t have any goals to accomplish before retiring. Then I saw Johanna’s plan to get a pug, and it hit me hard, in the face, like a flogger thrown by a jackass client: I must go out on an epic troll spree. Here’s my equivalent of scamming a dog out of a rich dude and running:
1. Change my working name to Mistress Meghan Julie Rhoda Murphy Bindel Grant
…Esquire. If a client fails to address me by my full name, I will revoke all of his human rights. You know, for his own good.
2. Figure out a way to sell just about anything as a fetish item.
Should I throw this old sweatshirt in the Goodwill pile? No, I’ll just rub it with onions and period panties and sell it as Mistress’s hot, smelly workout clothes. (LOL. Me. Work out.) Is it time to toss this old toothbrush? No, it’s time to go on Ebanned, and post about Madame’s filthy little butt tickler. Should I take out the cat litter? Don’t be silly; that poop is for the pathetic slaves who aren’t good enough for the Queen’s own chocolate. Put it in some Tupperware and ship it!
Dungeons are often a launching pad for newbies entering the industry as the work seems safer and often more socially acceptable to the general public. In recent years pro-domme, sub, and switch work has gotten more popular than ever. Meanwhile, commercial dungeon management continues to prey on people entering into the industry looking for an “empowering” job and finding out that it’s the exact opposite.
Serpent Libertine began her career at commercial dungeons in Chicago and later moved onto escort work. She is currently an organizer with SWOP-Chicago and part of the team behind Adult Industry Truth, which conducts research about human trafficking in the sex trade.
Cathryn: I started out doing fetish work independently, mostly spanking fetishists alongside my friend. I transitioned to indie pro-domming and escorting. My first time ever working in a house was last year but I’m back to independent work now. I’m what I like to call a prostidomme. I’m basically an escort, but I do the weird stuff.
Reina: An old friend from high school started Domming at a professional dungeon and told me the work she did at her dungeon was fun, but sometimes the work (and management) was crazy and weird. I was always drawn to the ‘weird and crazy,’ so immediately I was curious about what could possibly be so jarring that she had to leave that place and seek a new dungeon. I was there for a full year before winding up at another commercial dungeon for another year, before going independent in February.
Selene: I have worked as a pro-domme at two commercial dungeons; a year at each one. I learned about it through an acquaintance of mine at school who told me “I’m a Dominatrix.” I was taken by the title and my interest rose until I finally called the dungeon. However, I had no idea as to what was in store.
What was your initial experience working at a commercial dungeon? What sort of expectations did you have?
Serpent: Pro-domme work was my introduction to the sex industry. My roommate was working at a dungeon that this guy ran out of a basement apartment near Wrigley Field. He resembled the singer Tiny Tim (google him), but was even more creepy looking, with a huge pot belly and frizzy hair. He never showered and had a voice changer on his phone so he could pretend to be one of the dommes while setting up appointments with clients. I’d become well-acquainted with him via phone calls to our apartment asking for my roommate so eventually, I asked to come into his dungeon for an interview to work as a pro-domme. When I arrived, first he first seemed pretty cool and funny, but after talking to him for awhile, he laid down on the ground and began sniffing my feet, without my consent. He would continually talk about these fetish videos he wanted to shoot and ask my roommate and I to do a “screen test” to see how we looked on camera. Later I looked in his kitchen cabinets and found dozens of videotapes, likely of other women who had come into “interview” with him. Tiny Tim dicked me around and never gave me a shift at the dungeon but later phone harassed my roommate by calling her over 20 times a day after she quit working for him. I accompanied her to court when she pressed harassment charges against him and he was ordered to stop contacting her.
After that, I began working at one of the large commercial dungeons in Chicago. If I was nervous at all, I don’t remember, but I had no experience in BDSM activities at all. My training was to sit in on a few sessions with the other dommes and then start doing solo sessions. Our “dungeon” was just an apartment and we sat around bored most of the time, waiting for clients. I had purchased some rather pricey latex fetish clothing but at this place, most of the other dommes did sessions in lingerie or cheap fetish clothing.