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Love on Top – Is being a dom the most feminist profession?

It is safe to say that in recent years sex work has had somewhat of a social renaissance. Young people are far more open and accepting of the fact that sex work is valid, and that sex workers need to be considered in feminist discussions. At the heart of this has been the rise of OnlyFans and a greater awareness of the kink community. One aspect of the kink community that fascinates me more than any other is the role of women who consider themselves dominatrix’s. Dominatrix, Dom, Findom (financial dominant), and a plethora of other titles can all be used to describe women in sex work who specialise in total domination over men who wish to be submissive to an empowered woman. To find out more about this interesting community and gain better insight into what it means to be a dominatrix, I spoke to working findom, Mistress Harley, a dominatrix based in the Midlands. 

Mistress Harley explained that for her, being a dominatrix is “all about power exchange with the submissive and entering into a relationship where you are taking on some degree of control whether this is budgeting, controlling all aspects of their life down to their diet and social media, or whatever both parties agree upon.” She stressed that the world of domination and submission is very diverse and dependent upon the relationship the dom and sub build together. Mistress Harley explained to me that for her being a dominatrix is about being able to facilitate a fantasy for her clients while also enjoying the position of power that this role gives her. For many women who identify as doms the position of power is important not only because it is inherent to their role as a dom but also because it emphasises their confidence, their own pleasure, and their autonomy as a sexual subject. She enjoys the consensual and desired manipulation and the mutually beneficial relationship with a person who wants you to treat them, in her own words, “like crap”.

Harley, who started sex work with OnlyFans at the age of 18, also emphasised that her experience of sex work is incredibly empowering. She explained, “I like having the control that comes with being a dom and being admired or looked up to. The feeling of superiority with being a dom, and especially with being a findom, is incredible”. She also finds the role enjoyable because “for people of different backgrounds there is always a space. The community of doms is so diverse that everyone can find their own niche and be at the top of their game within a subculture.” She commented that she felt a major surge in confidence when she began to post content because she was praised for her figure and celebrated for who she was in a way she hadn’t experienced before. 

She also discussed her love for the dom community. She made sure to state that the community on Twitter is deeply supportive of one another and that doms will share their content in group chats to drum up each other’s engagement. They will also connect with one another to conduct joint sessions, offer advice and support, and build real and lasting friendships. When Harley talked about her community, she clearly has a deep love for the other women who work in the same space that she does and emphasised that there is not a sense of competition but of uplifting and supporting one another. She also discussed how the community is an excellent resource to keep each other safe as doms will reach out in group chats to warn of dangerous clients or clients without age verification. 

A significant part of Mistress Harley’s understanding of her work also boils down to the intellectual aspects of being a dominatrix. She said that despite the popular understanding of what she does that it is “not easy money. Lots of it boils down to the use of words and the way you present yourself”. The intellectual aspect of the work and understanding the specific aspects of a client’s fetishes are part of what is so engaging for her. By having a creative and considered approach to each session she works to ensure the best for each client and their needs to ensure the best session. One thing I took away from my time with Mistress Harley is that while she may be treating her clients in a certain way, she places great care and importance on their safety, their enjoyment, and the ethics of how she conducts herself. She made it a point to explain she refuses point blank to engage in any race play and won’t financially exploit a client to the point they find themselves in any serious trouble. She explained, “it isn’t that I’m going to expose somebody to their boss or their family or take all of their money or whatever, it’s more about the trust that I could do that”. 

Mistress Harley prefers to build a longer-lasting relationship with a client where they can both be clear on what is expected and as a result closer intimacy with the client is developed as opposed to quick and disjointed sessions. She mused that “exploitation is a fantasy; it is not excessive and unacceptable. For me it is way less enjoyable when it feels unethical, massive aspects of trust are involved”. She also admits that she finds the blackmail aspects of her position tricky and that she has hard limits of what she will or won’t do, protecting herself from any potentially illegal acts such as publicly harming a client.

One of the most important takeaways from speaking with Mistress Harley is that through being a dom she can be entirely candid and upfront about her own limits and boundaries. Due to her powerful role she plays in a session she is able to demand what she wants, how she wants it to be done, and point-blank will refuse anything she does not want. When I asked her about what power means to her as a woman in sex work, she told me that “a large part of power is tied to freedom and being able to do what you want to do without having any hindrances relating to gender and other factors. I know I have power; this is because I set the rules for her my own work and establish my boundaries and comfort level. This drew me into sex work. As a dom it is more expected that these boundaries are a factor in what we do”. Her rules and her candidness are at the centre of what she does. 

Mistress Harley, who identifies as an intersectional feminist, discussed the impact societal gender roles have on her work as a dominatrix. She states “through a fetish lens, the gender imbalance works in our favour. Stigma for men works in our favour too as it draws in their business and then we create a space where they are able to express themselves. This amps up the extremity too as breaking a taboo amplifies the experience and the desires of clients”. She continued to explain that for her what she can offer is a space where there is no judgement and a break from the expectations placed on men and women by patriarchy. When I asked if for her being a dom is inherently feminist she gave me this dynamic response:

“Being a dom goes against everything that men and women are taught to be and expected to be. The findom aspect in particular plays with the capitalist aspects of power relations and dismantles what makes men powerful – wealth and status. It entirely subverts gender norms. For me being a dom and feminist go hand in hand but I accept the community is not all the same and many doms may not identify as feminists. Sexuality is becoming more open and helping to progress the kink community and their mainstream acceptance and normalisation. It is nice to be able to facilitate kink in a safe and secure way that works to make submissives feel comfortable to explore their limits”. 

Harley discussed that being a dom allows her to access a position of power that elsewhere is not available to women. She explained that the sexual aspect of what she does allows her to tap into this position of power because “men think with their dicks, doms are able to access power due to the sexual nature of what they do. This ability to access this power is such a draw for both parties because of this. Being able to tap into that power and have total unrestrained control and power is what makes being a dom so unique. The fact that subs come back, again and again, expresses the mutually beneficial nature of the dom/sub relationship.” She mused that men only seek this degree of power in the women they interact with when it is sexual. Outside of a session men are able to walk in the world with all of the power that is given to them by gender norms, what she does as a dom is take that power and flip it on its head. She feels she and other doms access a power otherwise cut off to women.

Speaking of other women, I asked her what women not engaged in sex work can do to support sex workers and she explained, “Openness and acceptance. We need to validate sex work as a normal and legitimate part of life. Sex work is still labelled as ‘dirty’ by many people and we must eliminate this connotation. It should not be sensationalised either”. She notes that she understands the stigma around sex work is  greatly generational and that the younger generation is more open and aware of the validity of sex work. She also stated that while she does not experience stigma as a dom, she is aware it could be out there. When we discussed possible stigmas for doms she said that for her the community itself is a great support for her, and the people in her real life who know about what she does love and support her. She went on to say that there is still a degree of concern about being fully open because she knows people are judgemental towards sex workers. 

In my conversation with Mistress Harley, I feel I came to gain a greater insight into what it means to be a dom. Before our chat, I didn’t feel like a complete novice in the world of kink but as somebody who does not have sex with women, this sector of the community was somewhat foreign to me. Dominatrixes can tap into a unique position of power and control over men in a way that is mutually beneficial and enjoyable to both parties. Harley’s experiences and her commitment to the pleasure, safety, and relationships with her clients exposed a side of the world of doms I feel very few of us understand. The side of their world that is focused on care, both for the clients and of each other through the uplifting online community they have established. The solidarity and the power which comes from being a dom, to me at least, feels like a paragon of feminist sexual politics and perhaps there is something we can all learn from women like Mistress Harley. We can learn that even if we aren’t draining a man’s bank account or hacking his social media that we can still be upfront and assertive about our boundaries, or needs, and our right to access positions of power the patriarchy would rather us not step into. It is, for this reason, I think we should all be a little more dominatrix. 

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