I Am A Professional 'Submissive' Sex Worker: 6 Realities
You're probably familiar with dominatrices -- those in the often-leathery business of bossing people around for money. But what about the other side of that? Surely, there are lonely people out there who want to do some bossing. Where do they go? Specifically? We're, uh, asking for a friend. We spoke with Holland Jones, who works as a submissive at a BDSM dungeon, about those who take it for a living. She told us of how ...
The Legal Situation Is ... Complicated
"In general, this type of work is perfectly legal, and most dungeons operate like any other service-based business," Holland says. "I have to pay my taxes and everything. The good news is that I can also write off my pedicures and leather boots. We even have the fire department come in every year to inspect the building to make sure it's up to code. The look on the firemen's faces as they walk by the wall of floggers, handcuffs, and paddles is truly priceless."
"No sir, the one by the door is our operational fire extinguisher. This one is for ... other stuff."
There's nothing technically illegal about getting paid to beat someone up with their permission, as long as you don't touch their gabbles. If you arrest them, you're going to have to arrest Evander Holyfield, too. "There's never any sex at a dungeon," Holland says. That might seem weird, because sex is very clearly what's going on, but we're talking about the legal definition of sex. "Hand jobs, blow jobs, foot jobs, rim jobs -- basically all jobs are off the table." Ironically, puritanical ideas about what counts as sex actually hinders those very same puritans' efforts to punish people for selling it.
Pictured: the leather-clad difference between the letter and the spirit of the law.
"However, the definition of what constitutes prostitution varies more that you'd think, depending on where you live," Holland goes on. For example, in Holland's state, getting paid to painfully prod a dude's undercarriage (known as CBT, or cock-and-ball torture) is A-OK, legally speaking -- as long as you wear gloves. There has to be a barrier, which is why the ladies at Holland's dungeon also always wear panties. There can also be no exchange of fluids, which gets more complicated than you'd think. For example, the iconic whip is in fact rarely used in Holland's establishment because it can draw blood, which is a fluid.
"In some cities, kissing or spitting is considered 'exchange of fluids' and therefore can be defined as prostitution," Holland says. Pretty Woman taught us that prostitutes don't kiss, so that seems superfluous, but countless customers who have bizarrely popular spitting fetishes must have been disappointed.
"If there's no spitting, what's the point? I can get beat and handcuffed by the police for free."
This is part of the reason that "before each session, we sit down with the client and discuss what they want to do," Holland says. Yep, just like when you open a checking account. At that time, you can gently break it to them whether what they want to do is out of bounds, either for legal reasons or simply because that particular submissive isn't down. "For example, there are some girls who will never do nipple torture or use ball gags," Holland says. "No one who works at the dungeon has to do anything on any given day that they aren't cool with. But that said, if you aren't comfortable with a lot of things, you won't make any money." She insists that most clients are perfect gentlemen/women, but sometimes ...
It Can Get Scary, Especially When You're All Tied Up
"Clients still try to get away with things they aren't supposed to do. All. The. Damn. Time," Holland says. While she stresses that "you've about as much risk of being violated at the dungeon as you are at a frat party or walking down the street at night," she admits that "sometimes they do go way too far. I've had guys try to take off my underwear. Fortunately, I've never been seriously violated by a client, but I do know of situations where guys have tried to finger girls who were tied up, or jack off onto them."
"BDSM" doesn't stand for "Be Douchebag Sexual Molesters."
When that happens, "My response is always the same: 'No, sir, we don't do that here,'" Holland says. "If they press the issue, I threaten to call off the session ... We all have the power to end a session at any time, for any reason, and the guys don't get a refund. I haven't ever had to do this, but I've threatened it a couple times when a client didn't honor the safe word immediately." [A "safe word" is an agreed-upon phrase that means "no," because "It would be difficult to play out a kidnapping scene, for example, without use of the words 'no' or 'Don't kill me, I have a family.'")
Apologies to those who just realized why they occasionally woke up to mom shouting "Artichoke!" as kids.
There is, of course, the complication that you might be tied to a chair while all this is happening, so barking "This session is over!" might not be as effective as you'd like. The ladies are prepared for such a scenario. "The rooms are not soundproof at all, and there are intercoms in all the rooms as well," Holland says. "You can yell for the headmistress, and every person in the building would come to intervene." She and most of her co-workers refuse to use gags with clients they don't know well. This is a good rule of thumb for everyone, but it's also in place because the whole setup kinds of depends on your ability to shout. "Also, lots of girls won't do rope bondage with someone who isn't a regular, since rope bondage can be impossible to get out of, while handcuffs are super easy to escape from," she adds, shattering 90 percent of her clients' illusions.
The Truly Dangerous Clients Are The Ones Who Have No Idea What They're Doing
Veteran BDSMers know that you can't jump in, flails flailing. There's a right way to tie up and beat someone, and it can require a medical student's understanding of anatomy. "There are a lot of safety protocols that are good to know about before engaging in BDSM play," Holland says. "For example, with rope bondage, make sure there's no loss of circulation by tying the ropes so that there's room for one finger to fit between the rope and the skin. Don't hit anyone with an implement over his or her kidneys or sciatic nerve. Place nipple clamps behind the nipples, not on the tips. When slapping someone across the face, don't hit his or her ears or mouth. Probably the most important safety protocol is to know and adhere to the safe word at all times."
Since the only person in this scenario who is sure to have this education under their belt is likely physically restrained by said belt, this can present its own danger. "Lots of dudes have no clue how to use nipple clamps or how to do a proper hog-tie," she says. "These skills just aren't part of our sex education system."
Though they sure would've made seventh-grade health class a hell of a lot more interesting.
That's another reason the pre-session interview is important: It gives you a chance to figure out the client's skill level, "what the client wants to do and how hard he wants to do them." It's also "very important for subs to know their limits, and to know what's safe and what could cause serious harm," Holland says. "You have to constantly take stock of how you are feeling. Are you losing circulation in your hands or feet while tied up? Is the dom hitting you in a spot that could cause injury? Knowing what's potentially dangerous and stopping the dominant before they cause injury is a big part of staying safe working as a sub." Otherwise you could find yourself making a very hard-to-explain visit to the emergency room.
Related: Truly Wild Ideas To Save The Planet
You Become An Expert At Healing Bruises (Explaining Them Is Another Story)
"The most common place to get bruises is, of course, the ass," Holland says, "but I've gotten weird bruises all over my legs, breasts, and back." This means that, eventually, every sub's medicine cabinet ends up looking like a New Age shop catering to the extreme niche market of vegan street fighters. "The most common remedies we use are arnica cream," which is kind of like Icy Hot for hippies, "and icing to reduce swelling." Some of her more dubious methods include "strangely, toothpaste applied topically ... as well as gentle massage and sunlight," which is like the most cartoonishly adorable treatment for sex-spankings that we could've imagined.
Keeping medicinal puppy kisses and rainbows on hand causes too many
logistical problems for the average smut dungeon.
Those things can help prevent walking around looking like a domestic violence PSA, but not always. Holland has accepted this fate, explaining "Most of the time, I don't even bother trying to cover my bruises, because the makeup and turtleneck bill would go through the roof. If someone who doesn't know what I do for work asks, I usually just make up a story about running into a bookcase or something." She notes that that's "not uncommon for me to do anyway; I'm pretty clumsy," but we're reasonably sure that was in the PSA, too.
"The bruises? Fight club. Sorry, but I'm really not supposed to give details."
The only time it's ever really been an issue, she says, is "when I've been on a date with someone and I have a severely bruised ass. I've had to quickly choose between making up some story or telling them where I work right before we ... you know." Fortunately, it's not as much of a problem for her these days. "After a while, you stop bruising so bad or so often," she says. "Your skin goes through what we like to call a 'leatherizing' process when you get spanked a lot."
You'd Better Be A Damn Good Actress
"A huge part of my job is improvisational acting," Holland says. Some of that is for safety reasons: "If I'm the submissive and the client wants to inflict pain on me, I have to act like things hurt more than they really do in order to pace out the session so I don't actually get hurt or wind up with a bazillion bruises. If I'm the dominant, I have to continuously convey power and control throughout the session, even if I'm exhausted and don't really feel like ordering someone around for over an hour."
Commanding "Fetch me a cushion and the TV, slave; your master wishes to watch Jeopardy" will only fly so many times.
Screaming insults at your customers sounds awesome until it's part of your job. "Clients come in with all sorts of scenarios they want to play out," Holland continues. "Some guys know exactly what they want and the story never changes. For example, we have one client who comes in every month or so, books sessions with basically everyone, and acts out the exact same scenario with every single one of us: A naughty schoolgirl who got bad grades gets a spanking."
He clearly got a F in Creative Writing at some point.
"Then there are the sessions where your acting skills are really put to the test ... There was one session where the guy wanted me to grunt like a pig most of the time. That was pretty weird."
You can run into trouble if your acting is too good: "I was in a session once where the guy wanted me to pretend that I was locked in the room (of course, we never lock the doors for real), and I was banging on the door screaming 'Let me out!' and one of the head mistresses ran up to the room and busted in, only to find me and the client laughing." For the most part, though, you acquire a skill set that would make you the star of the Actor's Studio, up to and including crying on cue. "Yes, some people have a crying fetish," Holland explains.
She probably expects us to be surprised and saddened by that, but we've seen the Internet. We can't feel either of those emotions anymore.
It Gets Incredibly Weird
"It's not all whips and chains," Holland says. "It gets much more strange than that. I had a session with a guy once who had -- I'm not kidding -- a denim fetish. He liked the look and feel of denim, and only wanted me to try on a ton of denim clothing while he watched. We've also done a couple of crying fetish sessions where the client just wants to watch you cry, one where he wants to hit you hard enough to make you cry, and one where he wants you to cry because you are 'so sorry' for some made-up thing you did. There's also a client who comes in and wants one of us to tell him the story of a car accident in graphic detail. There's even one client who likes to just sit and talk about how he would eat you if he could -- like, literally go Jeffrey Dahmer on you."
In a building full of whips, it's still possible to be more intimidated by the plastic forks in the employee lounge.
Clearly, you have to have an open mind to do this kind of work. Holland can't exactly pass judgment, because it would be kind of a gimp-calling-the-mistress-black situation: "The other day, I had a client who came in for some basic S&M play, and after flogging me, he exclaimed, 'I have no idea why I do this, but I've always liked it.' I can relate. I don't know why I have a predilection toward giving and receiving pain, but I'm glad I've found an environment where I can safely act out my BDSM fantasies and help others do the same."
Holland Jones is a writer and instigator of mischief whose favorite hobby is skinny dipping. You can read her unsolicited sex and relationship advice here. You can hurl insults at Manna for free on Twitter.
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