Monday, September 17th, 2007
I instruct the slave to prepare in the small, black room, called the “Pit.” That means that they are to shed their clothes, hang them neatly on the white hangers in the closet, and then to kneel into “first position” to wait for me (a supplicant position, much like the yogic “child’s pose,” forehead to the floor, legs tucked under).
I climb the stairs to the loft nest to get ready: lace into a satin corset dress and zip on leather boots. I reach into a drawer and select a certain, leather hood that has eye covers and removable gag. The leather has been recently groomed and has a creamy, rich smell. My heels click on the hard, wood floor, notifying the slave that I am approaching. I pause by the door, breathe deeply, and set an intention. I open the double, French doors, enter the Pit, and begin.
I trail my fingertips from the slave’s lowered head down the spine, feeling them react to the gentle touch. I tell them my expectations for the session, have them rise to make eye contact, and then I slip the leather over their head. The soft, black, inside suede wraps their face and tightens, as I lace the back. I lock the attached collar around the neck. “Let yourself dissolve into my leather,” I whisper by the ear. “Here, you are mine.” Placing the hood on the submissive is a ritual of claiming identity. It allows the slave to set aside the roles that they must take on outside and transform into a more primal creature of desires. Primal, but not vulgar. I have been told by various slaves that the hood makes them feel stronger and sleeker. (Likewise, when I tell slaves to crawl, I tell them to do so with the elegance of a cat). In addition to the bondage and sensory deprivation purposes, the hood is symbolic in a way that tribal masks are important to certain cultural ceremonies. A football player told me that it reminded him of the same warrior mentality and protection that the helmet provided on the field.
When I first started playing with hoods, it was a strange progression. It startled me to interact with someone whose face was erased. It was both scary and exciting to have eyes watching me from behind a black, uniform mask. I found (and still find) the exploration of imposed and discovered identity fascinating.
I do not always require a hood for my slaves, but I usually use some piece of ritual emblem—a collar, a necklace, a pair of panties—to indicate their connection to me. Objectification during BDSM play is powerful. However, I am fully aware of the importance of the slave’s individual identity within and outside of session. Once the hood comes off, the slave is a person. I take the time to know that person, too.
David is a rope bondage bottom. We have been sessioning together for seven years. Our play is somewhat casual. I dress in jeans and T-shirt and don’t slide into my sadistic or severe side. I first lead him through a series of yoga poses and breathing exercises. Then I tie him into various contortions, including a strict, cocoon—like hog tie. Sometimes, while he is in bondage, we watch a movie together or I prop my feet on him while I read the latest book he has given me.
Our mutual gusto for rope bondage was the base of our professional relationship, but years ago, I agreed to meet for a session at David’s apartment in Brooklyn. I immediately checked out and envied his book collection, which bespoke his successful career as one of the top academic press publishers. (I am a nerd posing as a dominatrix; I instantly like someone with a mean bookshelf. CD collections can make me melt, too). Our friendship has become a heartfelt one. We’ve watched the World Cup together as he rooted for France and I, for Italy. David has even been a guest at my family’s home Christmas party. Needless to say, when we have dinner after our sessions, we talk about a lot more than BDSM, which I appreciate greatly. I enjoy getting to know my clients over dinner, but many times it is still session-time for me when the conversation is basically kink therapy, their need to talk incessantly about S&M.
While many clients are lone wolves, I have couples clients, as well, with variations on gender and top/bottom roles. Trish and Tyler are a couple, a Manhattanite power couple. She is a financial advisor for a major Wall Street company and he owns, buys, and sells real estate all over the world. They walk into my studio, exuding confidence and designer cologne; hang their suits in the closet, and both get on their knees, ready to submit. I tie them face to face and the masochist game begins. In a romance that was started by competitive tennis matches, I am their referee for S&M sex. Whoever can take more whip lashes before calling mercy gets to reach orgasm, serviced by the other. It’s pretty hot.
Some clients come to see me with their intimate partner’s permission and involvement. Paul is a tall, athletic, technology engineer from Holland. He is a rubber fetishist, masochist, bondage bottom, slave, slut, cross-dressing client. When Paul met his wife years ago, he confessed his interest in kink. Throughout their relationship they experimented with kinky sex, but could not find common ground in BDSM. Having no interest in causing pain to her husband, the wife agreed, after much negotiation, to send Paul my way for one evening a month. Over the past five years, not only has Paul’s exploration in BDSM deepened with me, but his wife’s interest in power exchange and other types of kink bloomed, as well. One of my favorite sessions is when Paul came to my quarters with a chastity cage locked on his genitals. I was given a key from his wife; she held the other. I’ve often told him how much I admire the strength and honesty of his relationship and he has always replied in earnest, “I couldn’t do this if Joanne didn’t know.” That is excellent trust.
I have clients who are looking to explore submission that extends beyond session time. They are looking for a real connection of care and consistency. I send instructions via email or phone to a few, select slave/clients to keep our connection “in-play” when we are not together. I can call “slave 725” at a whim and tell him to drop to his knees and to repeat a memorized Taoist mantra for me. I can forbid him to masturbate until further notice. It’s a fun sort of bullying to dominate over the phone. (But I do not offer phone sessions to those I have not met. Simply not interested).
And then there are those clients whose course in BDSM is very familiar to me. Ness is a twentysomething, queer graduate student. She wrote to me a year ago looking to explore BDSM with a focused intention, the same way she studies martial arts and meditation. Since then, she has come to session with me every other month and has offered service. Service includes, but is not limited to, cleaning the studio, running errands, and maintaining equipment. When she enters the studio, I feel her presence add serenity to the space. BDSM is more than just kink to us. It is hot. It is sexy. It is also strengthening and affirmation. I recognize her austere serenity and am honored to guide her in her path. (Plus, I get my leather polished by a striking woman. My life rocks).
The man I let out of my cage this morning is an old man. He has slept in the cage all night, waiting for me to let him out for the day’s session. His pajama is a black, rubber cat suit. The English gentleman crawls out, wincing at the morning ache in his joints, and pauses to shake a leg cramp out. At my feet, he lowers his head and I lock a thick, leather collar around his neck. This man is known as “Property” and he proclaims his title with pride. (It’s a killer with the accent).
Property has been with me for over three years. We have a written contract that states his dedication to me and mine to him. Every year, the contract is renewed and a tattoo is etched onto his chest, a Chinese character that is meant to express his intention of purpose to me. “Slave.” “Artist.” “Friend.” This fourth year, a new tattoo will be placed below the others.
Our sessions consist of heavy corporal—his favorite instrument being the cane. For the English, caning is right up there on the list of national effects along with their football, stout ale, and fish & chips. I bind Property only into positions I know that he can be comfortable in. I have learned to be careful and patient in movement and expectations. However, despite his age and physical limitations, Property can take, with pleasure, a severe caning.
So far, it must sound incredibly disturbing and un-sexy, as though I beat and brainwash an old man for money. But let me explain the parts of our relationship that occur outside the S&M studio, the part that is not a financial exchange, when I address him by his personal name.
Property is an artist and a retired architect. We have similar interests and strong opinions on cultural events, art, literature, and politics. I enjoy going to museums with him because of his keen eye, knowledge of the technical craft, and the review of art history he imparts.
When this old, Englishman came to me for an initial session, he was an admittedly depressed, lonely widower who was looking to be owned and was allowing others to damage him. He came to me with burn scars on his body that were obviously seared with a crude car cigarette lighter. He walked with a jarring movement and would occasionally fall from stepping off a curb. While I do have an inclination to take home stray kittens and birds with broken wings, I have learned to recognize and stave off that habit with the human sort. (Thank you, Ayn Rand and Camille Paglia). I now recoil from overwrought victim mentality with a sneer. So what do I get out of our relationship besides a field day to the Met?
As his “Owner,” I have demanded that Property take painting classes, make appointments to see the doctor, and learn Tai Chi routines. Every other session starts with a physical warm up that resembles a Richard Simmons work out. “Do the pony!” does not mean equestrian play in this case. I even have Property list his daily meals and write a journal to maintain his nutrition and memory. While wearing the hood and without, he is under my control. In short, I am his caretaker.
The reason I devoted myself to Property is a Freudian cliché. My father. As a Chinese daughter, I was expected to take care of my father in his old age. However, had he lived to an old age, I would not have been able to take him into my sanctum. My father’s belligerent control, anger, and abuse devastated the possibility of that kind of relationship. Through my caretaking of Property, I am relieving my feelings of obligation and duty towards someone with whom I actually cherish spending time. They say that you can’t choose your family, but I can choose my Property.
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