Hurt Not Harm: Prodommes and Male Submission

"If you are a worthless wallet looking for My purse then you have found it. Get on your knees you scum and take MY money out."
"Lay yourself at My feet sad submissive and share in the wonder that is Me."
"I know exactly how to bring you under my control and exploit and humiliate you like the pathetic little worm you are."

This is the very model of a modern prodomme Mistress.

At least, that's what you're led to believe, by some pretty terribly put together websites, professional pornography and a lot of media encouragement. There's a lot of social support for that particular structure, the idealized version of the sneering, cold-hearted dominatrix with her corset and her latex and her complete disregard for male submissives.

Looking up the term "dominatrix", and there's words I see repeated- "merciless women", "inner bitch", "stilettos", "leather lingerie". Oh, wait, like basically any image of a woman acting as a female dominant on screen. Where is the romantic, female E. Edward Gray, struggling with her desires, perhaps wearing a suit, or jogging at home to exhaust her passion for domination? I can't think of any- the dommes I've seen on film have been catsuitted, emotionally unavailable professionals, often who laugh at their submissive male clients and have a "real man"- some alpha type, obviously- at home who puts them in their place. Cue eyeroll here.

Never mind the way the word "dominatrix" has trickled into popular culture to sexualize, objectify, and often negate powerful women. Any woman with power, particularly in the male-driven world of politics or corporations, is called a dominatrix and portrayed as a whip-wielding harpy disciplining her "naughty" male co-workers. In fact, you can even use "the psychological and theatrical tools of the professional dominatrix" to get ahead at work, cause, you know, if sleeping your way to the top seems patriarchal and objectifying, try using domme skillz to "get your way at work"! Or check out the "dominatrix" trope over at TV Tropes:

"The typical Dominatrix will wear a very strict (yet usually quite revealing) uniform - usually made from leather or rubber - and carry a whip or similar tool... Simply being sexually dominant does not make a female character into a dominatrix: It must be her defining trait, and overtly so."

Side note: I am in love with TV Tropes, and this tongue-in-cheek post just cinched it for me:

Its funny when a woman dominates a man because women are weak ineffectual creatures (rendering the action inoffensive) and men are supposed to be strong and dominant, thus any man in the role of sub deserves to be ridiculed and by no means pitied, even if he's being forced into it.


(side note: you know who my first exposure to professional domination was, or female domination at all? Doris the Dominatrix from Eating Raoul.)

Anyway, there's another side to it. And you can just read some Bitchy Jones, or Post-Modern Sleaze, or Delving into Deviance, or Lab Coats and Lingerie, or Dishevelled Domina, or Not Just Bitchy, to see the non-professional side of female domination, in all its varied, messy, sometimes-we-domme-in-pajamas-and-we-exist-so-fuck-you glory. Which is awesome, and necessary, and I'm still waiting for a love story between a female dominant and her submissive that is sweet and not played for laughs.

But there's also people like me, Ms Slide, Miss Calico,  Mistress Matisse. The professionals. The ones who get paid for being dominant. And I'm really kind of tired of our profession being blamed for making male submission and male submissives into something that's a Bad, Unsexy Thing. Because I think, very strongly, that people doing that are hacking at the branches of the tree instead of unrooting it.

"When you're training to be in the medical industry, most people have to get over their squeamishness about the body, and she'd already done that. And even more than that, what suits former sex workers to medical jobs is, ironically, it's a very empathetic job. You really have to get in touch with what other people are feeling and needing and be able to read them intuitively. You have to have a pretty strong nurturing streak to do both of those jobs."
-Melissa Febos, talking about a prodomme friend of hers

It doesn't matter how many times professional dommes say that it's a job that involves a lot of empathy and care. We're drowning in two tsunamis- one from societal portrayals that cheapen, objectify, humourize and dehumanize us, and one from lifestyle BDSMers, who accuse us of not actually liking being dominant, of hating our submissive clients, of ruining events and being the only face of female domination.

Let me say this right now- the face of female domination is NOT MY FACE. She is slender, catsuited, stilettoed, heartless, wealthy, submissive to men who are "strong enough", and there only to fulfill the requirements of the client. She is a capitalistic, male-invented wank fantasy that has more in common with patriarchy than with female empowerment.

Maggie Mayhem writes:

"As soon as I identified formally as a female dominant in a BDSM context, the only men I seemed to be able to attract were the kinds of men who would dictate the entire script for their ideal sexual encounter with the expectation that my sexual pleasure would come strictly from serving that desire for them. On paper we would be on the same page for a scene negotiation but I would notice very quickly that the expectations were less of a close match than I thought. My actions were ostensibly those of a dominant, but my role was much more submissive in nature and it just wasn’t doing it for me. I began to even question whether or not I was a dominant because I wasn’t having fun doing all of these so-called “dominant” things.
After awhile I felt jaded about the whole formal Fem Dom thing and eventually scrapped it out of frustration. Without any understanding of identity politics and the way that systemic sexism was getting in the way of my bedroom fun I had been trying to shoe-horn myself into the role that was available to me without critically looking at either myself or the construction of those roles. I stopped going to BDSM parties “as a domme.”"

I quote this because I feel like that's part of the whole belief about professional Dommes- we're only following a script that the client gives us. Sure, some may do that, particularly ones that aren't turned on by female domination. Some may see themselves as performers, and that's also valid. This IS just a job for some people, and that's totally ok too.

For me, it's a passion. And personally, I don't follow a play-by-play, and I'm pretty sure neither do many of the Dommes I know who make money doing something they love. I do the same thing I do with my lovers- I get a feel for what they want from a scene, how they want to feel, their limits and their wants, and I build them a container in which they can explore submission, where they can shut their mind off and let go, knowing that whatever I do to them, whether it be scary, uncomfortable, or painful, I will give them aftercare and cradle them and make sure they're ok. I really genuinely tend to my clients. They're humans in my care, after all.

I became a prodomme not because I hated men, or felt like a fool and his money are soon parted, or wanted to make easy money without having sex. I became a prodomme first because I found human sexuality in all its variety fascinating, and very quickly realized that I had immense power to encourage these men, to teach them to find power and joy in being submissive, to find inner peace through giving that power, even for an hour, to someone else. I am paid, not because I resent my work or my clients, but because I am offering my expertise to be a guide and a friend. I am working in sex, sure, but that doesn't make my work less important or valid. Just because some of my submissives pay doesn't mean they deserve contempt.

I have had men come to me terrified of the things they fantasize about. Actually shaking. We weren't exchanging negotiations, they confessed. And it was heartbreaking to hear them say things like, "I know this is crazy but" or "I'm really fucked up aren't I?" because they wanted to be submissive. I had a client thank me for listening to his limits and respecting them, because he had seen "professionals" before who caned him even though he didn't want that, because "that's what a dominatrix does". How impersonal. How coldhearted. How nonconsensual.

I feel for these men. They're told their entire lives that to be anything but an alpha, every second of every day, is to be useless. They're told that their value is in wielding power, and these men are often not entirely sure if they want to release that power- or even if they can let go. It's a delicate process to untangle that mess of protective layering, to gently tug at the bindings of social constraints and stigma to get to the male submissive heart hiding, trembling, in the middle. It's a vulnerable place, and vulnerability is terrifying.

If they come to me ashamed, I hope I help them learn to be proud of their submissive instincts, that they are beautiful and deserve recognition.

If they come to me lonely, I hope I teach them skills and manners that will help them maneuver their way through the scene both on and offline, if they so choose.

If they come to me afraid to tell a partner about their submissive side, I hope I can help them communicate their desires to a lover in a way that makes it fun for them both.

So get mad at the system that tells men that their wallet is their appeal, or that being sexy makes them alphas, gay, or hilarious. Get angry about sexist, racist, classist, ableist, heterosexist fucked up media that takes only what feeds the patriarchy from BDSM culture and sells it to the masses. be fucking FURIOUS with the fact that the only business where women make more than men forces them to perform sex in specific, heteronormative ways. Hold the community responsible, even, for only showing images of sexualized women for the male gaze on their flyers, performances and galleries. I'm with you.

Please, for the love of the FSM, stop seeing me as the enemy. Because my work is about cultivating the beauty of the male submissive, often against many odds, teaching them to love that part of themselves and to succeed in a world that tells them their desires are stupid. I arm them for the battle. I show them that they deserve love. With any luck, I give them hope.

So stop blaming the prodommes. We didn't build this world- we're struggling to live in it.

And it's strangling me, too.

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