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This is an excerpt from an on-line Interview with a Female graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University who is conducting a study on the scene here in Pittsburgh. I also attended CMU, and finished my education there with University Honors.


How has your perspective on your line of work changed since you first became involved with it?

When I began professional domination, it was an experiment. I approached it with candor. I had a sense of humor about it, and I still do. That sense of humor seeps through - to the delight of my submissives! I have learned more about human nature than I did during 10 years of college. I have faced and conquered my issues. I try to help other people with their issues too, but it does depend on where they want to go with it. I want my clients to experience catharsis through their sessions.

There are different reasons why a person craves submission, and it can be anything from just wanting to escape and get off, to needing behavior modification. Sometimes ill-informed reasons need to be reshaped and directed into something more positive.

I view what I do as an art form. I have studied, learned techniques, and attended workshops world wide to have new experiences. This is my vocation.

I have learned about boundaries in a nontraditional way. I am a fluid person, and I do not think in a linear fashion (beginning middle end) about sexual things. I have a desire to grow and learn new things to keep the experiences interesting. The longer a Mistress is in this business, the more important it is for her to do the scenes she actually finds an interest in.

How do nonprofessional lifestylers perceive you?

Lifestyle Ladies often befriend me. I have a few lifestyle male friends too, who are switches, dominants and submissives. I have had a few girl toys too!

What has your experience been with people not involved with the lifestyle?

Since I don't advertise to vanilla society, I don't know what they think.

Many women in the scene are highly educated. Why the correlation?

The men who are attracted to this are intelligent. They are often in the upper income brackets and many are computer savvy. They make important decisions all day, and some of them run large companies. They want to trust and submit to a woman who they feel is bright. Most of them seek out intelligence, and they want to play with someone they would actually find interesting in 'real life' too. If a Domina wants to be successful she has to be able to mentally spar (and outwit if need be) these crafty men.


Would you say that there has been a shift in “mainstream” perceptions of the subculture?

Yes, due to the new fad of being a 'modern primitive' in our society almost everyone in generation X has a tattoo or a piercing. A whole new wave of club life has popped up in the last 10 years, and its cool to go out in public and submit to a Mistress at fetish night. These things unfortunately take years longer in Pittsburgh to occur with the frequency that they do in other cities. There is a burgeoning scene in Cleveland, Columbus, Philadelphia and Washington DC (Black Rose) but I mostly go to Europe to get my kicks that I need beyond the ones I get in my studio!

I feel the shift is good in some ways and bad in others. The bad: There is a new breed of Mistress moving in - the fetish model that just wants to be adored with gifts and money online. They are not concerned with technique and neither are their clients. Its 'cool' to be a Mistress right now. You can find references to domination in many advertisements. The whole 'male bashing' thing unfortunately gets mixed into the soup too, and people who are not scene savvy cant possibly understand the differences between immature male bashing, professional female domination, matriarchy or female supremacy unless they are willing to spend time on some serious reading.

The good: All of this is keeping us on our toes! We have to work harder, be more interesting and learn more to inspire our clients to want to continue their sessions with us. Our clients are starting to realize that what we are providing cant be found at some bar or through some lifestyle advertisement on a 1-900 line. There will always be clients who would rather visit a professional for their own separation from the scene. The convenience of 'no stings attached' is a very attractive thing. No matter how big the club scene gets or the lifestyle groups become, there are always going to be clients who want to separate D/s from the rest of their lives.

About the portrayal of D/s in mainstream society:

S/m is titillating. It sells movie tickets and indeed it does get portrayed in nonfactual and negative ways, but those people want to sell films. They don't care about the scene. Scene people know this, and the more educated ones simply take it in stride, and also take advantage of it; for example: by getting a secretive thrill by taking the wife (who knows nothing of their scene interests) to see 'Quills'. The problem with D/s in filmmaking is that it is too much of a hot potato to 'do the right thing with' and 'send the right message'. Someone somewhere is going to get offended. Filmmakers who choose to use D/s as subject matter for their projects know this and exploit it. By the way, 'Quills' is more of an art film than a commercial money maker, and I highly recommend seeing it with a non-scene person to get their perspective on it.

Some would say that there is something insidious and harmful about this even existing- the whole decadence/fall-of-Rome thing. What is your slant on this?

If society was perfect there would not be perversions. We are imperfect in an imperfect society. We find pleasure in our perversions and eroticism in our taboos. Comparing Rome and the modern S/m scene is like comparing apples and oranges. There is no comparison that I see. We are now living in the age of technology; not the age of iron! Due to technology, we can now interact with thousands of people anonymously about our desires, and feel we have a kinship - even though most of us have to be very secretive.


How would you say professional domination fits into the term ‘sex trade’ or ‘sex work’?

This is 'sex work', because it is a sexual thing to people. There does not have to be sex in order for something to be sexual, however.

Do you think that the inclination towards BDSM is a sexual orientation, per se?

Yes, I define myself as a pan sexual leather person. I accept/play with/have had relationships with - all sexual orientations, but to make things easier I simply call my own orientation leather.

How do you/ other women negotiate the crossover between professional and lifestyle domination?

I have boundaries between my personal and professional life.

How has your involvement changed your general outlook, if at all?

I have had other types of employment that have affected me more than this one has. I have learned things from each job that I have been able to bring to my current lifestyle. From the archaeology I did in the early eighties, I learned that I had 'true grit' to dig holes in the ground in the middle of March at 45 degrees below zero. Its hard work drawing maps and taking pictures when its that cold outside! From being a waitress (while in college) I learned how to 'size people up', so I could make an experience positive. From being an artist I learned how to be spontaneous and abstract with my clients, and of course from being a teacher I learned patience. What made it hard for me in all of these jobs though, was that I am not a follower or team player. I am a leader, and I am only really happy working for myself. I am lucky to have found this occupation, because it suits me so well.


Do you look at people/ life differently? Has it changed how you deal with people?

I can read someone very quickly. It is scary. My extra sensory powers have gotten much stronger too. I know what people are thinking, and when I have them in bondage I 'talk to them without talking'. How has doing professional domination changed me? I am much more protective of my personal time. When I was an artist my work was about my life, and my domination is really about my submissives.

Most importantly - has it changed how you see yourself?

I am less selfish than I used to be and am a stronger person physically and emotionally.

What was coming out to your family like; i.e., how did they see it, as opposed to how they see it now?

They already knew before I told them. I am proud of what I do. If you feel good about what you do, those who care about you will be respectful.

Abuse is a common stereotype, as far as reasons go that people enter the scene. (My advisor can’t get it out of his head, for example.) My thinking is that this is but one of many catalysts-but that there usually is one present. What is your perspective on this?

Your adviser has probably met sadists and not even known it. It is what we do behind closed doors that is scary to non-scene people. Remember, that scene people negotiate their play. The 'victim' is seeking out 'the treatment', and quite aggressively seeking it too! These 'victims' often struggle and act like brats in order to get more 'attention'. The submissive is often the 'selfish' one, and the Top is often satisfying the fantasy of the submissive. It is consensual play in the world of Professional Mistress and submissive client. It is also consensual play in the lifestyle BDSM world, mixed with relationships that are more personal than professional. Careful negotiations are carried out pre-scene in both worlds, and the submissive ultimately has control over what happens to them.

The submissives are partaking because they want to. This is very obvious. Abuse is something else entirely. People who are dangerous to society are not part of 'the scene'. They try to hide behind it's skirts on occasion, but they are always blasted out in the end. There is a big difference between what goes on in D block, and what goes on in a dungeon. The energy may appear similar, but the morality and ethics are different. This 'energy craving' for realism so many submissives have has popularized such role play games as prisoner/Guard, victim/Interrogator, criminal/Cop, accused/Judge, and so forth. Look at the way the D/s scene has sexualized most types of uniforms.

Power play is hot, and those in the D/s scene often 'play around' society roles, which are forbidding and horrible things to actually become. It would be awful to really be a prisoner, victim, criminal, or the accused, wouldn't it? Playing 'around it' in a sexy way makes it really hot! Your adviser needs to realize that sadists are often excited by the 'tableau' and that means what we do is 'literally on a stage' even if it is in our own minds. The ideas excite us, often just as much, if not more, than inflicting any kind of real physical or mental 'pain'. The power of the spectacle rules in the mind of the sadist.


Many women with whom I have spoken dominate men professionally while identifying as lesbians. Is there a correlation, or is that just the side I’m seeing?

Many professional Dominas are kinky women, who are not repressed sexually. Everyone has same sex fantasies at some stage. I have noticed that women who stay in this over the years are sometimes gay, but they also have male slaves. The sex industry in general is filled with women who get excited looking at pictures of each other. When we are young, the first pornographic images we see are often of women. It is 'acceptable' for women to look at pictures of other women, and men are turned on by the idea of women being together. A lot of dominant women find the idea of gay male sex to be hot.

I do not know of very many women in the professional dominant scene who do not like other women sexually. Most of the dominant women I know have also had relationships that are sexual with personal male submissives. Therefore, I would conclude that most professional dominant women are actually bisexual, with leanings overall towards men or women as a preference.

(This is for me… do you know of any sources where I could find out more about the history?)

I just read a delightful little book while I was on the treadmill the other night entitled "Uppity Women of Shakespearean Times". This book is a series of small vignettes about each woman (it even mentions transvestites) and what she did and how she coped with being 'dominant' in a patriarchal world. The book also mentions a lot of female 'scoundrels' which is most amusing. The author has such D/s flair to her writing, I know she must have had something to do with the scene (or still does) because of the many colorful uses of certain words and phrases. A must read for some entertaining history. I also have fantastic library link for the members of my site.

Thank you for the interview Ms. Boss!

You are welcome. It was enjoyable!