What It’s Like To Be a Dominatrix

People sometimes say that “sex work is easy”, of which, by nature of it being an erotic job, a Dominatrix falls under.

How hard can it be to be a Dominatrix, you say? You put on a catsuit, boots, whip someone while telling them what a loser they are…while raking in a lot of cash, right? Anyone can do that!

If only it was that easy!

First, you gotta get set up: come up with a name, develop a brand, decide on a location, create a website, establish your email, set up a phone number, are you going to own your own studio (how much money do you have to invest?) or are you going to rent (assuming there’s someone to rent from in your area), what activities are you offering, when are you offering it (part-time, full-time, early mornings to late nights), knowing about risk, law, managing business expenses, and taxes. (Contrary to what people say, we have to pay taxes, too.) Tired yet? But you haven’t even gotten started!

Now, you need to get yourself noticed. Expect to create a steady stream of content, which takes hours to prep for, write/shoot, edit, post, and distribute. Are you going to pay a professional photographer or do it yourself? Do you have the right photography equipment? Do you have editing software? Do you know how to use it? Don’t forget to watermark! Pirates will be out there ready to steal your pics, videos, and likeness so they can try to scam someone with your hard work. So either you’re either going to learn how to track it down and get sites to remove it (hint: it usually involves paperwork and sometimes proof that the content is yours), hire an attorney or piracy service, or ignore it and hope it doesn’t tarnish your reputation. (Pirated video will cut into your revenue.)

You’ll also need a decent wardrobe. Like latex or leather? It can run in the hundreds (or more) for 1 piece. Latex is popular with clients but it can rip easily so be prepared for that session where you ruin your $500 catsuit. Shoes? Depends. Usually, 100 & up per pair. Want some of those fancy red-bottomed Louboutins everyone is horny over? Around 1000 per pair.

Running your own studio, like I am? Be prepared to spend thousands of dollars on furniture, gear, consumables, cleaning supplies, utility bills, etc. I’ve spent over 10k on equipment alone. And don’t forget maintenance. You will need to repair or replace things periodically.

OK, now you need clients. How do you get them? Gotta know how to market in a competitive field. I don’t use OF or sell videos, so I have a narrower opportunity for exposure. How do I get people to find me? Website (you’ve got to pay someone or make your own). Directories and forums. Social media, where you need to be constantly active to be seen, while simultaneously facing constant censorship and the possibility of your account being deleted without warning.

Do you know how you’re going to get paid? Especially when there are ZERO payment processors that allow you to use their system to accept payments for adult-themed sessions? That’s right: no PayPal, no Venmo, no Stripe, no Google Pay, no Apple Pay, no…you name it. If you do it and they find out they could confiscate your money and ban you. (No joke. It’s happened to several people.) You could have people send it through the more adult-friendly channels like NiteFlirt, SpankPay, Erotifix, etc. but that’s a risk, too, because even they don’t want you to use them as a payment vehicle for face-to-face sessions. (If you do use them for any reason, be prepared for their cut to be 20-35% versus a standard business payment processor’s ~3%.) And how are you going to manage the clients who say they can’t have a “paper trail”? They often ask to pay with a gift card. Are you going to accept gifts cards from all these people? How will you pay rent or your utilities?

Skills? You better have them. Or you won’t get repeat business. Hoping someone awesome will mentor you for free? Very unlikely. Most of us don’t have the time or interest because many Domme hopefuls underestimate the work and will either not take it seriously or disappear. Who wants invest any of their (limited) time into what is very likely to be a net loss for us? Be prepared to find and pay someone who will teach you. Acquire books and videos, attend classes, workshops, and conventions. More expenses.

Going to offer a specialized activity? Like medical or heavy rubber? Expect to invest a big chunk of money into it — and a big chunk of time with the specialized cleaning that kind of gear requires. (Ever washed and dried a 7 by 4 foot heavy rubber sack by hand, inside and out? That’s the reality of vac bed maintenance.) Maybe you’re going to do something less intense like foot worship? Foot fetishists usually want pedicured feet. That will be an additional, regular investment to keep your feet soft and looking pretty.

Do you know how to do things safely? Do you know the risks of the various health conditions of the clients you will get? What about medications? Do you know which ones affect the kinds of activities you can do safely, within whatever limits they provide? Do you know how to handle a medical emergency? Fainting? Panic attack? Cardiac arrest?

Got someone interested in you? Fantastic. How do you know who to accept for a session? How do you screen them? Do you know warning signs? Do you know what questions to ask to be able to do this work safely and effectively?

They showed up? Congrats — this one wasn’t a no-show! Now what kind of security do you have? You do know we have a higher risk for harassment, stalking, assault, rape, and murder, right? You might want to learn some self-defense.

Now it’s time to run the session. Know what to do? The person booked 4 hours. Do you know how to entertain someone for 4 hours straight? How do you make them want to come back? You need people to come back or you won’t be able to do this full time.

Done! Not so fast. Time for cleaning. You will spend hours doing this. And you can’t just wipe things down with butt wipes, you have to disinfect and sterilize so your clients don’t end up with infections and disease. (Don’t expect clients to be honest about what they may have.) Oops — ran out of chux, gloves, lube, disinfectant, bleach, etc? Time to order more supplies (a constant expense).

Uh-oh, got a problem client? What if they keep touching you in the session when you asked them not to? What if they keep showing up at your studio, unannounced? What if they start making threats? How are you going handle this?

Got through that all? Great. Now, time to do it all over again. And again. And again. And don’t expect success right away. While I did pretty well in my first year (had a plan), it wasn’t until around year 5 that I really felt established in my field. (YMMV.) Expect that once the sense of glamor wears off that aspects of this will feel more and more like a job. Expect to go through phases when you really don’t like those aspects. You will need to learn how to manage this or it will lead to burnout.

SO! While each type of SW has its own requirements, none are “easy”. Being a Dominatrix is the most expensive form of SW & requires a specialized skill set, including understanding how to do very risky activities that could severely injure or kill someone. It involves a lot of time, cash, and dedication.

So, do you still think it’s “easy”?

The More You Know 🌈

Sex and Dignity

There is a belief that sex work is not a dignified way to make a living.

We see anti-sex work activists and abolitionists try to fool people into sustaining this belief: you cannot have dignity if you choose this; you are sullied and less than by this work you do. (Many continue into dogma about it being inherently exploitative and violent.)

Obviously, this can only be the case if sex, or eroticism in general, is thought to be something dirty and shameful, and thus the choosing it as one’s work makes you dirty and shameful.

Why is sex not dignified? Who got to decide that the emotions, arousal, and mechanism by which we came into existence is perhaps not the most dignified thing of all?

Response to Vice’s “I Give Disabled People Orgasms For a Living”

A friend recently shared this article with me:


I appreciate when people provide a platform for those of us in the sex work community to educate others about the reality of our work. Much of what we do is heavily misunderstood, stigmatized, and subject to heavy doses of misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism — you name it. This all has a tangible effect on the lives of both us and our clients and makes this work sometimes very difficult to do.

In this brief interview, there are several things that Ms. Nerdahl gets right. We help people with their sexual development. We often teach them, whether they (or we) are conscious of it or not, to better understand and accept themselves, their bodies, and their desires. We do in fact see individual men the most but many of us are open to couples and to women, though far fewer women contact us. And she is absolutely correct that our work should be decriminalized and not legalized (they’re not the same thing) and that people aren’t “criminals” for seeking out support for their erotic needs. (It can’t be a crime if there are no victims!)

On the other hand, there are some things that Ms. Nerdahl gets wrong. For example, this paragraph:

The difference between prostitution and what I do is that we were saying 1) this is medically assisted, but 2) it’s not just about getting your money. I shouldn’t say prostitution’s all about money, but if you were just to hire an escort, she’s not necessarily going to care about getting you to a better place than when she found you, or to help you achieve whatever it is or help you learn something or help you explore something. The other thing is, she wants your repeat business. With us, we have more of a set protocol. Because emotional attachment is an issue that comes up, especially when you’re dealing with intimacy like this, there is a cap on sessions. And there’s a debrief that is supposed to happen at the end of each session, to help the clients process what’s happened and to help them process any emotional attachments that have maybe come up. And to make sure that everybody stays in a healthy space with it. It’s very client-led. The client identifies what it is that they want to explore or what it is that they want to learn or experience, and the coach is there as a guide or as a facilitator.

First of all, there really isn’t a difference between what she does and calls “medically assisted sex” and what people broadly call “prostitution”. Plenty of “prostitutes”, or sex workers, do in fact see people who need the kind of support she offers her clients. Sometimes this support is with sex itself. Sometimes it’s more about being held or caressed. Sometimes it’s to help process emotional and psychological concerns, which may be reflected in the types of activities or roleplays chosen; or through coaching, counsel, or various techniques which resemble those used in psychotherapy. Or it’s a combination of all of these.

If people aren’t aware, there are a helluva lot of sexually conflicted people in this world. We sex workers give them space to be and heal. And we assume the burden of all the misunderstanding, stigma, and hatred in order to do it. In that sense, it could be said we all offer “medically assisted” services.

It’s not true that “prostitutes” are necessarily all about money or that she (or he) isn’t concerned about getting you in a better place. I’m sure Ms. Nerdahl has a big heart, but let’s be honest: she wants to get paid for her work like the rest of us. (No different than people who don’t do sex work for a living.) Many sex workers are wonderfully caring, empathic people who care about their clients just as much — if not more — than Ms. Nerdahl does.

It’s also untrue that we don’t do things to mitigate or discourage emotional attachment. We Dominatrices tend to “debrief” our clients after their experiences with us, especially those which are particularly intense and challenging. Some of us also uphold very clear boundaries with our clients between sessions to ensure they don’t confuse the fantasy we explore together with the reality of our relationship outside of that fantasy. And though Ms. Nerdahl, and other workers like her, may put a limit on sessions, we don’t usually do that because, as she herself acknowledges, everyone is different. So, the need one person has might get fulfilled in one session but for another take years.

The larger problem here is that she’s speaking from a place in which there is a moral hierarchy of erotic services, often referred to as the “whorearchy”, of which she seems to place herself at the top. It’s disappointing but I don’t hold it against her. We’re all indoctrinated to see “prostitutes” as lesser people. She’s just acting that out.

What I want people to understand from this is that one does not need to call sex work “medically assisted” to make it respectable. This furthers stigma, and also sets us up for some really ugly regulatory possibilities when we finally decriminalize all sex work. I would also argue that it feeds the idea that women need to be men’s “nurses” in order to get approval for how we use our bodies.

There are a lot of reasons why people see sex workers — disabilities, working through psychological issues, wanting sexual experience, lack of time to develop relationships, and more — but there are also people who just want to have pure, raw sex for sex’s sake. And there is nothing wrong with that. And nothing wrong with paying someone who provides this as their job.

Ask yourselves: why does our culture normalize deceit as a way to get one’s sexual needs met but stigmatizes those who want to pay for it? Why is it more noble to manipulate a woman into sex than to honestly negotiate it with her in exchange for payment?

So, while this interview with Ms. Nerdahl is a welcome dialogue about the realities of sex work, it also illuminates our need to better understand and destigmatize the different types of work within our own community. We all may do different things, but they are all a necessary way to express human needs and desires — not only for our clients but often often us, too — and that itself is respectful enough.