Dominatrix Melissa Febos: Whip Smart, Serving Sex Slaves

Share
Copy

Whips, Paddles and Gas Masks as Tools

Febos viewed herself as a "cultural anthropologist" and relied on her "verbal strength" to arouse the men who chose her as their master.

That might include dressing up as a nurse and inflicting an enema on an examining table in the med room, or barking orders as a strict teacher or office manager. In addition to costumes, her props included whips, paddles, cuffs, blindfolds, wooden stocks and even gas masks.

One bondage table had leather upholstery, metal rings around its edges and a removable top that served as a coffin for men who were into sensory deprivation. The only practice she didn't engage in was "breath play" or choking, and there was always a "safe word" that signaled the dommes to stop.

And all the while, Febos was getting her English degree at the New School in New York City and taking copious notes on her work. It was only later in a master's degree program that a professor suggested she turn an essay on her experience into a memoir.

Febos began on the day shift -- 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. -- catering to "mostly married fathers," who were, "nearly all professionally successful," who wanted someone else to take control for an hour of their day.

"My client base consisted of stockbrokers, lawyers, doctors, rabbis, grandpas, bus drivers, restauranteurs and retirees," she wrote. "The day-shift crowd scheduled their whippings they way they scheduled business luncheons: out of necessity and convenience. En route to the dungeon, they dropped off the dry cleaning, or their wives at Macy's."

Not all her clients were sexual deviates, Febos insisted, and many used her services as a "lifestyle," rather than a compulsion.

"For some, it's pathological behavior and there is shame involved," she said. "For some, they are perfectly healthy and had success in their lives good relationships and it wasn't even secret."

Others came to work out childhood trauma.

"They may have been bullied as children and the practice was cathartic," said Febos.

She kept her work hidden from parents, friends and boyfriends. Her other secret was her growing addiction to drugs, and most of the time Febos worked, she was high.

"I was born with that gene -- it was part of it," she said. "For me, it manifested itself as a desire for adventurousness and pushing boundaries, to escape to alternate realities."

A type-A personality who was doing well in college, she controlled her drug use, but eventually it became more frequent.

"In a moment of clarity, on my own, it dawned on me I was too good at hiding it and I was going to die with a straight-A report card," she said.

After Febos sought help to rid her life of drugs, the dominatrix work that once gave her a sense of feminist empowerment began to feel degrading and dishonest.

"I started to feel uncomfortable and humiliated," she said. "The secrecy was killing me. And for three years as a dominatrix and being a drug addict, I hadn't written anything."

But today, Febos teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and is working on a novel about the complexities of female friendship. She said her students are "admiring and respectful, and also quite shy" about the subject of her graphic memoir.

Febos disagrees with critics who say that her book glamorizes the business of S&M and that being a sex worker made her a better person.

"My message is of brave open-mindedness to other people's experiences," she said.

Still, the work, though addicting, eventually became a psychological burden.

"Even though I was playing a powerful role," she said. "I was conforming to the fantasies of other people."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...