The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc through every corner of society this year. One business that has received little attention amidst the storm has been that of Pro Dommes. A professional dominatrix is a woman (the occupation is overwhelmingly majority female) who is paid by clients to dominate them. And by dominate, this can of course include any number of a vast range of specific activities under the umbrella of BDSM – such as bondage, whipping, sensation play and so on. This is a perfectly legal business model in most Western societies – aided by the fact that actual sex (and sexual touching) is invariably off the menu with almost all reputable Dommes.
With businesses across much of America doing their best to avoid contact between people, the business of domination faces unique challenges. Unlike ordering dinner, or attending a meeting, the experience of a BDSM scene (for both top and bottom), and the brain and body high that it can evoke, are intertwined with the connection and chemistry between the participants. And that’s before you even consider the physical touching and proximity inherent in so many BDSM activities (spanking, scratching, foot worshiping to name just a few).
As with most other businesses that involve in-person contact, Pro Dommes’ businesses have been largely shuttered since March.
Most of the pro-Dommes that I coach abruptly stopped their in person sessions, and many were scrambling to move their business to distance domination formats because they had relied primarily on in person sessions before the lockdowns.-Simone Justice (SimoneJustice.com)
The sentiment was echoed by Princess Marx, a Boston & LA-based Domme:
I stopped in-person sessions immediately when the California lockdown went into place in mid-March. I don’t fuck with deadly viruses.-Princess Marx (PrincessMarx.ch)
And where various levels of government have been offering assistance to businesses to keep them afloat during these unprecedented times, the nature of the business makes it difficult for Pro Dommes to access any of this aid.
Renowned Dominatrix Isabella Sinclaire says,
These forms of government assistance were not designed for very small businesses of one employee. So I have had to downsize.-Isabella Sinclaire (IsabellaSinclaire.com)
With leases on two properties – The Ivy Manor, a private dungeon rented for sessions by other pro-dommes, and Demask DTLA, a latex clothing store – the current times are particularly trying.
I closed my Demask DTLA latex clothing store to mitigate the monthly expenses as Landlords were also not willing to negotiate a decrease in rent or offer free rent and we are going into our 4th month of no income. I have two business rents. The store and my studio which cost $5000 a month in rents combined. Moving into July, that’s $20,000 of rent due with no income. It is an impossible scenario for a small business but I’m trying.-Isabella Sinclaire (IsabellaSinclaire.com)
Of the Dommes we spoke with only Lady Sophia, a Chicago-based Dominatrix, had been able to benefit from one of the government assistance programs. She was granted Disaster Assistance loan from the federal Small Business Administration, which is separate from the more widely known Paycheck Protection Program.
I have to tell you, when the funds showed up in my bank account I almost didn’t believe it was real. It’s important to note that the Disaster Assistance relief loan that I received is a loan. This is money that still needs to be paid back. The good news is that the interests rate is very low and the monthly payments are also very reasonable.-Lady Sophia (LadySophia.com)
For many Dommes who aren’t tied to property leases, their businesses have shifted exclusively online while the pandemic rages.
“Online sessions have been a big part of what I do for a few years now, but I don’t think even I fully realized how big of a part. I feel very lucky that I had things set up like this before the quarantine – if I hadn’t, My life would look very, very different.” says Princess Marx.
Justine Cross, LA Domme and owner of private venues Dungeon East and Dungeon West, similarly commented,
Luckily for me, I was able to pivot my real time with clients into online sessions. It was a lot of work, but I felt like it was the safest and best option. Not only have I adapted, I also created a class for others to convert their real time clientele to online. Meanwhile, Dungeon East and Dungeon West remain very much open for private rentals – things are very much thriving despite the pandemic.-Justine Cross (LosAngelesBDSMevents.com)
For some Dommes, the move to online has been so positive that they plan to make it permanent. Dominatrix Lila Sage said:
In the comfort of their own home, people feel more at ease and able to drop into deeper states of relaxation and submission. Since my work as an Inspiratrice and Hypnotist is focused on creating sensations in the body through the mind, I can take people on fantastic journeys through imagery and their senses. I am finding new depths with clients online that they have never experienced before.-Lila Sage (MissLilaSage.com)
For other Dommes and their clients however, online sessions are a temporary measure and no substitute for the real thing.
Isabella Sinclaire summed up this perspective:
“Everyone that works beside me has moved to online platforms and online networking. But the enjoyment and income will never compare to the in person experiences.”-Isabella Sinclaire (IsabellaSinclaire.com)
Looking ahead, there will eventually come a time when the virus has subsided enough for people to resume their usual activities – exactly when and how will be a personal choice for each individual.
Princess Marx had been preparing a plan for reopening prior California’s new surge of COVID cases. “Well, I thought I was all set to re-open (with lots of safety precautions in place), and then California’s case count started going up!”
I developed a 3-step screening protocol for re-opening (in addition to My usual screening protocol): 1) a phone session to get to know each other, 2) testing done within 3 days of our session, and 3) an optional tele-health screening, offered by a medical professional friend of Mine.
In addition, I had 3 new rules for play: 1) a temperature check at the door, 2) both parties required to wear masks, and 3) no direct-contact foot kissing/worship (though boot or shoe worship might have been okay)
Might it adversely affect the session experience? Sure. Wouldn’t it be nice to be face to face and getting My feet worshipped? Absolutely. But am I willing to stake My life on seeing a submissive’s face? Absolutely fucking not.-Princess Marx (PrincessMarx.ch)
Do you work in the world of kink or sex, and interested in being quoted for future articles? Or do you have a story about how COVID has impacted the world of kink in some way? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.