Former Dominatrix Jenny Nordbak Gives Us a Glimpse Inside an L.A. Dungeon

Former Dominatrix Jenny Nordbak Gives Us a Glimpse Inside an L.A. Dungeon
Bobby Quillard/Courtesy St. Martin's Press

When I was a kid in L.A., I recall scanning all the massage-parlor ads in the papers and gratefully taking in those postage stamp-sized photos of lusciously rounded woman curves. Alongside those jaw-droppers I'd also notice those mystifying other ads, the ones featuring women with whips, and my horndogometer would plummet. "Wait, how is that sex?" I never got it. Still don't. Face-slapping? Uh huh — I dare you. Nipple whipping? No thanks. Smothering? Gotta go, see ya!

Of course we know there have always been folks who crave such things; call them society's floggees. They walk (hobble?) among us, some of them willing to pay good money to perform or receive acts of bodily torture with the help and guidance of seasoned professionals.

If you've ever wondered exactly what goes on in the kink parlors of L.A., The Scarlett Letters: My Secret Year of Men in an L.A. Dungeon (St. Martin's Press, $26.99) by USC grad Jenny Nordbak will enlighten. But (and this is a big but), it will also endarken, as our ex-domme authoress recalls scene after harsh scene of outwardly average males having their genitals punched, their urethras electrified, their extreme emasculation fantasies realized — and in brutal fashion. If you're looking for cheap, porny thrills, look elsewhere; this book is closer to a Hieronymus Bosch painting mixed with those film clips of animal experimentation in labs.

There are some great books that make the human body seem like a disgusting thing, of course, but there is a stark matter-of-factness to these descriptions — drawn from out of the bowels of an unnamed S&M dungeon — that drains them of any, shall we say, heightened artistry:

"Caterina went through the mechanics of face slapping and nipple torture, showing me how I could do it more effectively."

"He was going to ejaculate on the floor like a fucking animal if I didn't do something. I grabbed a hand towel from a stack in the corner and tossed it to him with seconds to spare."

"I walked across the wet tiles until I reached him, completely unfazed by the fact that it was a puddle of other people's urine. He looked up at me with such intensely pleading eyes ...."

"I was having a typical Monday. My foot worship client had been late ...."

In all this urine-soaked carnage of whippings and floggings, the remote possibility of orgasm seems galaxies away; as Nordbak notes here, some of her clients don't even want that. Nordbak never addresses what psych-kinks might be at work in her clients' heads, but she's not a shrink, she's a domme (professional name, Scarlett). It's just business.

She takes on the verbiage of the trade, referring at times to her "vanilla" friends, the ones who live outside the BDSM world. She wonders about the roots of her "current perversions" and looks back to her childhood for answers: "Why ... did my Barbies somehow always end up tied to something, helpless and tortured?"

Who (I am sadly forced to ask) are these guys who pay to have their balls tweezered by a busty matron? Are they necessarily, as we might assume, gross Hollywood fat cats? Yes, some are.

Despite the sex-positive nature of the book, Nordbak curiously and repeatedly refers to her vagina as her "lady bits," making her anatomy sound regrettably like an off-brand dry dog food. Still, the story of Nordbak's secret life, long kept hidden from family and friends, is presented as a tale of female empowerment. That's even though on more than one occasion she carries out acts that probably would strike the average reader as humiliating, like when she finds herself excreting into a plastic bag for the benefit of a coprophage client or carting around a warm, steaming bag of sweaty old tennis shoes for a very special fetishist's gratification.

Warning: This narrative veers often from the anal to the banal and back again. In this already inflated age of memoirs, everyday accounts of douchey boyfriends and bad-relationship lunches at Denny's only make a book like this seem that much more, well, vanilla. So here it is, your urine-soaked feel-good hit of the season ... with the emphasis on the hit.


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