For me (and pretty much every other vanilla girl out there), it started with Fifty Shades. As soon as Ana tripped over the threshold of Christian’s office, the world was captivated by Mr. Grey and the world of Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism (BDSM). Of course, it quickly became clear that their arrangement wasn’t a good representation of this lifestyle—in fact, it’s totally problematic. Still, as the coronavirus pandemic stripped me of happy hours and overpriced dinners, I dug out the dusty trilogy to revisit its scandalous world. This time, however, I found myself more interested in what the series got wrong, as opposed to the shoddy dialogue and unrealistic fact that Ana has a mind-bending orgasm while losing her virginity.
So, after a lot of wine-induced Googling, I found Mistress Rogue, a professional dominatrix (“dom” for short) whose brain I could pick regarding the series, her work, and what it means to be a part of the lifestyle. When I asked her about Christian Grey, her response summed up the entire community’s thoughts: “Oh, my God. Can you put that? That’s my quote,” she tells Betches. “It’s absolutely not accurate.”
While Fifty Shades might have completely missed the mark about what it means to be a dom (something most of us knew and ignorantly ignored), it turns out that the truth about the BDSM lifestyle is even more fascinating than the fiction. I asked Mistress Rogue all the questions you’ve had about BDSM so you don’t have to go down a Google rabbit hole.
What Does A Professional Dom Do?
According to Merriam Webster, a dominatrix is “a woman who physically or psychologically dominates her partner in a sadomasochistic encounter,” which is pretty much exactly what the job entails. While the profession isn’t only limited to women (men can be doms too), the gist of it is these pros are paid or agree to control someone, whether it’s for a short session or for a lifetime. Sometimes the control is mental, sometimes it’s physical, and yeah, sometimes it’s sexual. Sessions can involve anything from chains and whips to diapers and dog kennels, and sometimes, they don’t take place in person but revolve around money or diet control (where the dom says what you can or can’t buy, eat, or do).
Mistress Rogue, who has been been a professional, full-time dominatrix for three years, spent over 10 years learning about the lifestyle and immersing herself in the world of BDSM. She trained under Mistress Mercy, who is the Headmistress for the Miami-based Goddess Girls (a group with whom Rogue still collaborates), and she’s the founder and Head Mistress of The Dom House, a company home to multiple male and female doms (as well as a few apprentices and submissives). Now, she has a fully loaded dungeon in St. Petersburg, Florida where she caters to a wide variety of male, female, and nonbinary clients.
Why Do People Practice BDSM?
There are lots of reasons people incorporate dominance and submission into their lives, the biggest of which is the endorphin rush. While it might seem like BDSM is all about physical acts, it’s actually very psychological. The goal of a session is for the sub to reach “subspace”, which is a euphoric, meditative state. On the flip side, doms (including Mistress Rogue) experience the converse and aim to reach “domspace”.
While you might think, Well, I’ll just get a whip and tell my boyfriend to go to town, that’s actually not what it’s about. Not only can it be hard to figure out what exactly you like, but it can be even trickier to learn your limits, especially in the space of your relationship. This is where the pros come in. Almost like a form of therapy, “submission is about letting go,” Rogue says. “You don’t have to be in control. It’s a very healing act and some people just need it.”
What Are The Most Common BDSM Fetishes?
“Spanking,” she says. “Everyone wants to get spanked and everyone wants to get blindfolded and gagged and paddled.” It makes sense. Long before Christian and Ana visited the Red Room of Pain, spanking and hair pulling were among the more common practices seen even in vanilla sex. Chances are, Mistress Rogue probably has more whip choices beyond the joke one you got for your birthday.
Another popular demand she gets revolves around foot fetishes. Though it’s an arousal point she didn’t quite understand when she started out, she’s now a big fan. “Foot fetishes are very much about true submission. You walk all over things all day long, and then you get someone to worship at your feet beneath you. It’s the true core of submission.”
As for what she won’t do? “Roman showers,” she admits, after a pregnant pause. This act is a very extreme fetish where the dom vomits on the sub. “It’s just because it’s painful for me,” Rogue says. “I don’t like vomiting.” Luckily, there are plenty of types of play she does like to partake in, like rigger, suspension, heavy impact, and strap worship. She also loves any situation that involves wearing her latex catsuit (pro tip: use lube when putting on latex. Her suggestion is ID Millennium).
What Happens At A Professional Dom Session?
Images: Austin Zeli
Prior to visiting a professional, you’ll most likely fill out an intake form that outlines everything you do and don’t want to do (and are and aren’t okay with). When it comes time to actually have your session, you’ll be told how to address the dom, what to do upon entering, and any notes involving your appearance (no matter what, please shower!). Normally, there will first be a meet-and-greet component where you’ll once again go over what’s going to happen and review the usage of safe words. “Sometimes, advanced sessions have no safe words, but that’s something they consent to,” Rogue says. First-timers will absolutely use stop and go words, the most common of which is the standard traffic light system (green is go, yellow is slow down, and red is stop immediately).
Then comes the “performance”, as Rogue calls it. Part of the dom’s duty is to create the experience, which she takes a lot of pride in planning. Basically, Rogue sets up different time blocks of what they’ll do, and sometimes includes breaks depending on how intense each unique session is. “It’s not like you finish in ten minutes and leave,” she says. Once the performance is over, one of the most crucial components of BDSM takes place: the aftercare. “It’s like when you watch a movie, and as you leave the theater you talk about it. What you liked, what you didn’t like, what you want to experience next,” she explains. This is hugely important for emotional wellbeing—not only in BDSM, but in all sexual acts.
“Imagine in a vanilla world, you have sex with your partner and you want to cuddle after, but they just get up and leave without saying a word. If you don’t know how to navigate it properly, you can feel used and broken,” she says. This is why consent and communication are the backbones of BDSM play. In addition to cuddling, chatting, or hugging, Rogue will also give her subs water and clean them up, because sometimes there are fluids like tears, sweat, or blood (consensual bleeding, of course) and this cleansing afterward is crucial to the bond.
Here’s What Everyone Gets Wrong About Sex Work
Image: Austin Zeli
It’s important to note that professional dominatrixes don’t have intercourse with their paying subs. Rogue says that some guys go into the session assuming she’s offering intercourse, an idea she quickly shuts down. “Yes, I am providing a service, but this is on my terms. It’s not about what they want; it’s about what I want. Professional dominatrixes do not have sex with clients. Ever. Period.” That being said, it’s still considered sex work. “I was surprised to learn that during the first year,” she says. “I was like: ‘No, I don’t have sex with them.’ But it’s still sex work and there’s nothing wrong with that.” There’s a lot of discussion surrounding sex workers’ rights in the mainstream media right now, and a push to decriminalize sex work, which is exciting to see, especially for Rogue, since it’s not just the legality of the work, but the stigma surrounding it that sex workers are grappling with. One of the biggest misconceptions Rogue personally takes offense to is the notion that it’s easy to be a dominatrix or sex worker in general.
“I work a lot on what I do. Preparing for sessions. Planning sessions. Buying equipment for specific sessions. Keeping my overall image. There’s so much that goes into this. No one wakes up and the next morning can be like, ‘Oh, I’m a dominatrix. Come to my dungeon.’ That does not exist.” As for what the general public gets wrong about dominatrixes, it’s that they “hurt and abuse” people.
“Everybody in the BDSM lifestyle asks for consent for everything,” she says. And when she says everything, she means it. Even before engaging in socially acceptable touching like hugging or shaking hands, she always gets verbal or written consent. “It’s very easy to get a bad reputation in the community, so you have to be careful,” Rogue admits. In general, however, “the public doesn’t understand that there are so many ways to make other people feel incredible without the sex part.”
How Is Dom Work Different During Coronavirus?
Because their work is all about interacting with people on an intimate level, it makes sense that the pandemic could cause some challenges for sex workers. “At the very beginning, when everything shut down and people were quarantined, everyone was staying home,” she says. “We had this emergency situation where I wasn’t seeing anybody because I was, you know, freaking out—and understandably so. And a lot of the time, I see people I’ve never seen before. They book online and it’s just a stranger.”
Once restrictions started to ease up a bit after a month or two, Rogue started seeing an influx of visitors again. “They had no jobs, were stuck at home, and completely desperate for some thrill.” So when the demand started coming back, how was she able to take on subs amidst coronavirus? “Even without the pandemic, I utilize a lot of safety measures. Before and after I see someone, we sanitize everything. I use gloves, I use masks, and I even keep my distance. You don’t actually need to touch someone personally with your hands to be able to deliver domination.” Think canes and riding crops, people!
When the pandemic started hitting harder, however, Rogue had to shift to a new model as business severely slowed (and stayed) down. That’s when she transitioned to virtual work. “While OnlyFans is really popular for vanilla and regular sex work, my OnlyFans is a little different. I have it set up for submissive or slave BDSM people who want to serve online. They have the opportunity to see what I’m doing or see me play with others. There are a lot of ways this can be done.”
Since she started offering more online options, she’s seen an overwhelming amount of demand from people who want to participate in BDSM sessions from the comfort of their homes—something she finds incredibly rewarding. She views her OnlyFans as a virtual dungeon, and she has subs complete tasks just like a regular session. “I can tell them what to do, they can get custom videos, request content, tip, or just talk to me,” she says. “Since it’s all online, anything goes.”
Okay, I Want To Incorporate BDSM Into My Life
Images: Jason Perrone; Austin Zeli
Whether you’ve always been interested in it or were titillated by Fifty Shades, there’s a good chance you’ll find something rewarding in a BDSM experience. As for how to incorporate it into your lifestyle, Rogue highly suggests seeing a professional, whether or not you’re in a relationship. “Some pros see couples and will coach and teach you,” she says, which will help you navigate not only the physical components but the mental as well. “Some of it is dangerous and that’s why people go to a professional,” she continues. “We know what we’re doing and can keep you safe.”
If you’re ready to dive in, it’s important to do your research and find someone who knows what they’re doing. “There are fake doms out there, usually men, who are looking to take advantage of women,” she notes. But how, exactly, do you find someone who’s not skeezy? “A dom with a good reputation will have at least some social media set up,” Rogue says. “Avoid sketchy ads, look for a good website, and consider how they talk to you. If they don’t want to negotiate in terms of the things you want to do, run.” Before visiting—and especially if you’re going alone—be sure to share your location with someone as an extra precaution. When going in, make sure they have a safe place, and if something feels off, don’t move forward. BDSM is all about speaking your limits, and finding your pro is no exception.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you look like or what you do for a living. “All I care about is your behavior, your manners, and your ability to follow instructions,” Rogue says. “A lot of people are scared of seeing a dominatrix, but we can be nice. And for anyone who’s very interested but is scared of committing, remember: I will not hurt you if you don’t want me to.” But chances are by the end of your session, you’ll be begging for more…
Images: Jason Perrone; Austin Zeli
A couple of years ago, the 50 Shades trilogy hit the shelves (as in bookshelves, remember those?), and our lives were more or less unaffected never the same. In a heartwarmingly American response, the millions of people (ugh) reading these books promptly went out to their local hardware stores and started loading up on rope, presumably to hang themselves with try out these saucy new bondage techniques. While these horned-up, determined women stocking up on duct tape were definitely friends with your mom a little misguided, it can be really hard to give your sex life the makeover equivalent of Lindsay Lohan pre-Mean Girls to Lindsay Lohan post-the greatest movie of all time (y’know, minus the STDs), but here are a couple tips on how to take things to the next level:
DO: Buy the ** Appropriate ** Supplies
Again, if at any point in the “spice up your sex life” routine you find yourself standing at an Ace Hardware register inquiring about the roughness of certain rope fibers, just tell the cashier to cut your credit card in half and go home. This is 2017, so there’s no reason to be leaving your house—that’s what Amazon reviews were invented for (I mean, I’m assuming). Also, if you’re embarking on an “Intro to Bondage” journey, you’ll probably be just as well-equipped with scarves, tights, or even handcuffs as a low-maintenance alternative. You’ll be better off spending your money on mood-setting materials (silk sheets, candles that you will under no circumstances drip onto your partner) than having your partner wonder why you’ve ordered a load-bearing steel hook and six feet of cable wire. You’re having sex, not disposing of a body—don’t make this scarier than it needs to be.
DON’T: Make It All About You
At the end of the day, the sexiest thing about Christian Grey was his willingness to drop buckets of cash on a glorified secretary how turned on he got doing all that kinky stuff to Ana. Assuming your boyfriend doesn’t already have the inclination toward rough sex, he might not be as psyched about certain scenarios, which will lead to him weakly patting your ass and then asking if he’s hurt you. To actually have an enjoyable rough sex experience, you need to find something that your partner is excited to try, so you get to have the complete inanimate sex doll Ana Steele experience of being dominated. Also, it doesn’t hurt to introduce the whole rough sex experience as something you specifically want from your partner. It’s a lot less off-putting to hear, “I really enjoy getting the shit beaten out of me during sex,” than it is to hear, “I get so turned on at the idea of you throwing me around a little.” If he feels like he’s what’s turning you on when he does get a little rougher (and not the memory of the ex who probably gave you this sexual preference in the first place, oops), then he gets an ego boost and you get an orgasm (which is like, platinum level win-win for both parties).
DO: Ease Into It
I mean this in literally every single way. First, lube. Buy a lot (no cooling or heating shit), and incorporate it liberally. Second, talk to your partner before. It’s super tempting to just try and move his hands during sex and hope that he’ll read your mind, but since my boyfriend has literally replied, “what’s up,” when I said his name during sex, I don’t have a ton of faith in that practice. And since nothing kills the vibe faster than putting on your mom voice and saying, “no, do it like this” mid-act, get this out of the way beforehand—preferably over a glass, or six, of wine. Which brings me to my next point: drink. It’s called a “social lubricant” for a reason, and if this is your first foray into rough sex, you’ll probably want your typical inhibitions at least slightly lowered. I’m not saying get wasted, I’m just saying have enough to lose all sense of shame get out of your head and feel a little adventurous.
DON’T: Freak Out About Any of This
It’s obviously daunting when you’re suggesting something new, you’re in a vulnerable situation, and you’re not sure how the other person will react. But honestly, if a guy tries to make you feel embarrassed for bringing it up or acts like you’re a slut for wanting it, this guy is an insecure prude who’s worried that he hasn’t been satisfying you sexually. And if you do give it a shot, and it turns out you don’t like it as much as you thought you would, that’s okay too! Sex is sex, and if you’re not trying new things, you’re depriving yourself of potentially mind-blowing sex. Life’s too short, and your list of back-burner bros is too long for you to get hung up on one bad experience. If you want something more aggressive than what you’re getting, I’m sure there’s a guy out there who’s more than happy to oblige (just please not the people who are buying rope at hardware stores).