Surprise: It's nothing like what you saw in Euphoria or Bonding.

By Gabrielle Kassel
January 13, 2020

The popularity of Euphoria and Bonding, two TV shows which feature Dominatrix as main characters—Kat Hernandez and Tiff Chester, respectively—suggests people are super intrigued by the concept of a Dominatrix.

Unfortunately, there are wide-ranging criticisms of both shows' portrayals of BDSM. Many voice concern that because Kat is underage, her role as a Dominatrix is innately dis-empowering. Others roll an eye at how blatantly wrong Bonding's portrayal is of consent and boundaries in a D/s relationship. And both TV shows are accused of perpetuating the bored trope that all sex workers are survivors of (usually sexual) trauma.

That's why "you really can't rely on what you've seen in the media about Dominatrix to understand what it is we do, why we do it, who we are, or what safe BDSM practices look like," says Andre Shakti, professional Dominatrix, sex educator, and intimacy coach.

With that in mind, Shakti and three other professional Dominatrices share what being a Dominatrix is actually like. Here, they explain what a Dominatrix really is, what sorts of things they might do with a client, what a session looks like, and how it affects their non-professional lives.

What Is a Dominatrix, Exactly?

Our good pal Merriam Webster defines a Dominatrix as "a woman who physically or psychologically dominates her partner in a sadomasochistic encounter." (And, yes, it's always capitalized, as a nod to the power dynamics involved.)

This definition is more or less accurate, explains Swell Cat, a trans woman who moonlights as an online sex worker and Dominatrix, noting many non-binary, gender-queer people, or woman-aligned folks identify as Dominatrices as well.

But if you don't know what a "sadomasochistic encounter" is, that definition is about as helpful as hitting up Google to find out if you have an STI. A sadomasochistic encounter is "where someone takes a more submissive role while exploring kink and BDSM," explains Shakti. (If you need a refresher on BDSM, skim through this BDSM Beginner Guide real quick, then come right back here.)

It's important to mention that there's a difference between lifestyle Dominatrix and professional Dominatrix, says Lola Jean, Dominatrix and sex educator. Some people want to take on a dominant role 24/7—meaning, they have someone in service to them at all times, even outside of the bedroom or dungeon. These are lifestyle Dominatrices.

For others, like those interviewed for this article, being a Dominatrix is a professional role. "When you're a professional, you're fluent in dominating within a kink or BDSM context," explains Shakti. "People come to you for that skillset, and a monetary transaction takes place. It's sex work."

However, while "Dominatrix is the word you'll see most often in media, it's not usually the word most folks use," says Jean. Instead of identifying as "Dominatrix," most people use the term Domme or Dom. Or ProDomme/ProDomme if they're professionals. (The rest of this article is centered on ProDommes.)

Who Goes to a Professional Dominatrix?

Know this: There isn't one type of client. People of all ages, genders, orientations, and races may choose to hire a ProDomme. (Though it's worth mentioning that because most ProDommes charge between $200 and $400 per hour, most clients are middle- or upper-class).

"My clients run the gamut from top-level CEOs, surgeons, and lawyers to couples, queer women, trans folks, and blue-collar individuals simply looking to explore and expand their sexuality, submissiveness, and the connection their most authentic selves," says Ashley Paige, an NYC-based professional Dominatrix.

The Benefits of Working with a Dominatrix

Wondering why someone might hire a Dominatrix? A variety of reasons. "Some folks seek us out because they saw 'Fifty Shades of Grey' and are interested in experimenting with BDSM for the first time," says Shakti. In her opinion, "hiring a professional is one of the best and safest ways to start exploring BDSM, kinks, or fetishes." That's because there are safe(r) ways to do things like whip, flog, spank, choke, or slap someone—all of which the professionals know, but a partner may not. Plus, a pro is able to create what Jean calls, "a non-physical safe space to explore your desires," in the way a partner (especially a not-so-loving partner) may not be able to do.

Other folks seek out ProDommes to play out a very specific fantasy. "Sometimes clients will have written out a full script with very specific lines that they want me to say during a scene," says Shakti. Or, they may request a very specific sex act. In the case of the latter, clients will hire a professional with a specialty in that act (yep, ProDommes have specialties). Paige, for instance, specializes in "sadomasochism, behavior modification, sensual-strict domination, impact play, and corporal punishment, electro-play, rough body play, beat downs, primal play, full toilet training, sensory deprivation and overload, slave training, and tantric kink with a focus on breath work and catharsis...to name a few." Other specialties include poop, food, sploshing, tickle-torture, sensation play, humiliation, nipple-torture, medical play, cock and ball torture, nipple torture, impact play, and pegging. (For more on ~all this~, you might want to check out Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino and Barbara Carrellas or Decoding Your Kink by Galen Fous.)

ICYWW, clients don't need to know exactly what they want to try before reaching out to a ProDomme—the professional can help you figure that out. "When someone doesn't know what they want to try, we'll talk about the last thing they masturbated to, what porn they enjoy, what they fantasize about, and what they want to feel during/after a session," says Jean. "I'll use that info and suggest acts I think might align with that, and then we'll talk it over." (FYI, these are the most common sexual fantasies.)

What's a Session with a Professional Dominatrix Like?

Typically, an exchange between a ProDomme and client will begin when a client googles Dominatrix in their area and contacts a Domme they think would be a good fit. Then, the two will then chat (via email, phone, or social media) about what the client is looking for; if it's a good fit, they'll make an appointment. If not, the Domme is usually able to connect the client with a professional who might be a better fit, says Shakti.

After that, typically they'll agree on a location and meeting. "A lot of sessions take place in a hotel room or in a commercial dungeon where there are a lot of little rooms," says Jean. Some Dommes will go to the client's house for an up-charge, but usually only if they've worked together before," she says (because, safety).

The first 5 to 15 minutes of a session include just talking and getting comfortable with each other, according to Shakti. "Even if we've already talked about what's going to take place, we'll go over it a second time. Then we'll talk about their body any disabilities, muscular pain, or aches that might interfere with what we're planning to do," she says. "Then, the client will pay me, and we'll segue into the scene." How long a scene lasts will vary, but for her, they usually last 45 to 50 minutes.

Something you might be surprised to learn is that, usually, scenes don't include penetrative sex. "While there are a number of acts that have a sexual nature like fisting or prostate play, many Professional Dominatrices do not have sex with their clients," says Paige.

After, "we'll spend a few minutes checking in about how they're feeling," says Shakti. Then, if the space has a shower, the client might choose to use it. "Then we shake hands and part ways," she says.

Some clients have a fantasy they only "need" to live out once. "Folks who are new to BDSM tend to book me for a few sessions so that we can ease into it slowly," says Shakti. Other people have regular standing appointments with their ProDommes. (Related: BDSM Saved My Failing Marriage from Divorce)

Being a Dominatrix Takes (Skilled!) Work

There's a misconception that sex work isn't "real" work (*eye roll*), but that couldn't be farther from the truth. "Being a Dominatrix is about way more than picking up a whip and yelling at someone," says Paige. Being able to engage in BDSM safely means knowing how to flog, whip, choke, etc. someone without causing undo (or non-consensual) harm. "Those of us who are serious about our work go to workshops, read books, do research, and have dedicated hours and hours of practice to ensure everyone can walk away whole and better than before—even if that means walking away with a (consensual) bruise or two," she says.

Dominatrices also need super strong interpersonal skills. "It's difficult to pull information out of some clients, and you need to be able to get to the bottom of what they want and like without acting like you're pulling teeth," says Shakti. You also need a strong intuition and to be able to gauge people's energy, "so that you can make them feel supported, validated, and safe throughout the entire session," she says. A lot of clients come into a session with a great deal of shame about their sexual tastes or tendencies, and a ProDomme has to help them weed through those feelings, too, says Shakti. (That's partially why so many women are using BDSM as a form of therapy.)

Oh, and "you have to be your own agent, manager, website designer, promoter, brand-developer, social media manager, copy-writer, and photographer/videographer," she adds. Yep, there's a reason sex work is called sex work.

But don't read it wrong: That doesn't mean all Dominatrices are rolling in dough. "There's a misconception that we're either homeless or throwing around hundreds, but that's not necessarily true," says Shakti. "There's a lot of sex workers who are middle class."

What's It Like Being a Dominatrix?

It's certainly different than Bonding or Euphoria might have you believe. For starters, these shows might suggest ProDommes aren't able to be in healthy/loving relationships. Actually, that's false. "A lot of us are able to maintain relationships outside of our work!" says Jean. "Yes, sometimes our job makes it harder because we need partners who understand and support our work, but it's definitely possible." While sometimes ProDommes are also Dommes in their romantic/sexual relationships IRL, "others are switches, submissive, or vanilla in their real life," adds Shakti. (Meaning, they may prefer to relinquish control sometimes or all the time, or may prefer a personal sex life without any kink or BDSM.)

Beyond that, Paige shares that being a Professional Dominatrix has greatly enriched her life. "It's helped me find my power and own all of myself in more ways than I can count," she says. "And so many of the skills and experiences that I've gained from being a Dominatrix, I've been able to apply them to all aspects of my life...I'm a better person who is able to live a more intentional life as a result of being a Dominatrix." (It's true: Kinky Sex Can Make You More Mindful.)

The bottom line: "Many people don't have the privilege to be completely and authentically genuine with their desire anywhere else in their lives," says Paige. "While, yes, being a Dominatrix can include all the theatrics of the whips and chains you see on TV, it's honestly more about connection, consent, and creating catharsis. Something we need more of in this crazy world," she says. True that.

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