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BDSM

Inside the L.A. Dominatrix Industry

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Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 11:53 AM
click to enlarge Mistress Justine Cross has a B.A. in Literature and a B.S. in Psychology. Reading 50 Shades of Grey saddened her "as an academic and intellectual." - JAMES, PET PRODUCTIONS
  • James, Pet Productions
  • Mistress Justine Cross has a B.A. in Literature and a B.S. in Psychology. Reading 50 Shades of Grey saddened her "as an academic and intellectual."

This piece is part of our series on the L.A. dominatrix industry. See also:

*How a Dominatrix Does Her Taxes

"Chains and whips excite me," Rihanna sings. "You're a dirty little whore, and I'm going to send you home to your parents covered in cum," Lena Dunham's love interest tells her on "Girls."

And in Hollywood, a bidding war over the film rights to E.L. James' bondage-laced romance novel, 50 Shades of Grey, which has sold 31 million copies worldwide, ended with Universal Pictures plunking down $5 million: more than was paid for Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code or The Hunger Games.

But even as 50 Shades and other mainstream representations of BDSM (bondage and discipline; domination and submission; sadism and masochism) broaden the sexual horizons of middle-aged women everywhere, the Angelenos who have spent years and careers "playing," or participating in kinky encounters in dungeons and at fetish parties, are rolling their eyes at the book's popularity, scoffing at how prude we all are.

Spanking? Puh-leez. Try scrotal piercings. Try glass rods inserted into the urethra. Try tying your genitals to a pulley system and using the rope to slowly yank your body off the ground. Numerous professional dominatrices (or "dommes") call the erotic bestseller "vanilla" and "entry-level"; one compares the trilogy to a grown-up version of The Babysitter's Club.

So if the book that's scandalizing readers profoundly disappoints those truly in the know, what is L.A.'s professional BDSM world really like, in 2012? What kind of people get paid hundreds of dollars an hour to flog, gag, interrogate and tease willing clients?

Over 200 women (and fewer than five men) in greater Los Angeles work as professional dommes or submissives, whether out of one of the city's two large commercial dungeons, Dominion, in Hollywood, and Sanctuary, near LAX, where the house takes a hefty cut from individual income and most clients are walk-ins; at smaller, appointment-only dungeons like Mistress Lexine's Irongate in Reseda and Mistress Justine's Dungeon West in West L.A., where clients are pre-screened and the owner will rent out rooms to other dommes; or out of spare rooms and garages in private homes.

Most professional dungeons are equipped with thrones for foot worship, doctor's chairs for medical play, wooden St. Andrew's crosses, steel cages, chain-link spider's webs, stocks, gallows and an endless variety of bondage furniture, much of which is designed and created by a man called Downtown Willy, who also works on vintage cars. Closets and chests of drawers will store an arsenal of toys, including the usual ropes, gags, chains, paddles and handcuffs, but also metal and bamboo canes, rectal scissors, feather ticklers, equestrian riding crops, gas masks, blindfolds and earplugs, collars and leashes, binder clips, clothespins, saran wrap, the electric shock-inducing Violet Wand and the incredibly popular vampire gloves, which are dotted with small spikes.

Many dommes are fierce feminists and highly educated. One commutes to her dungeon downtown from Claremont, where she is working on her PhD. Another, Empress Himiko, a sadist who loves kicking men in the testicles (ballbusting), attended an Ivy League university on the east coast and volunteers regularly at her Gnostic church.

Each domme, sub or switch (someone who is happy giving or receiving orders, depending on the client) specializes in a few specific fetishes and techniques. Mistress Lexine, who runs Irongate, says she enjoys humiliating and smothering. Over at Sanctuary, Mistress Nina plays with knives, fire and enemas (not necessarily all at once), Busty Bijou shows off her 38H chest and Mistress Nikki attracts those looking for the natural, hairy look; shaving her will set you back $300-$500.

Up next: Goddess Sativa's transformational make-up magic

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