A dominatrix is a female professional dominant, i.e., a woman who can be hired to play the dominant role in erotic BDSM Total Power Exchange sessions for male or female clients. The plural of dominatrix is dominatrices.
Definition and practice
The term dominatrix, unlike domme, usually implies that the person is a professional dominant, also known as a pro-domme. A common form of address for a submissive to a dominatrix is "Mistress" or "Ma'am". Although the majority of clients are traditionally male, a dominatrix may also take on female submissives as well. Also couples eager to learn more about the BDSM lifestyle will sometimes hire a dominatrix to instruct them.
A pro-domme may be considered a nominal sex worker or erotic services provider, but they are not prostitutes. That is, a genuine dominatrix does not engage in sexual intercourse with her clients. Instead, they provide a specialized service for those seeking an alternative form of sexual excitement by being dominated, humiliated, and punished by an all-powerful female.
The dominatrix is a symbolic goddess-like figure that the submissive (or slave) wants to worship and obey. Sexual gratification stems from the masochistic desire to experience pain and degradation from a harsh or cruel female authority figure.
Having conventional sex with such a goddess would ruin the fantasy of this particular roleplay construct. However, there are some exceptions that maintain the power exchange of the scenario. For example, a dominatrix might consent to the sexual humiliation of her clients by sodomizing them with a butt plug or strap-on dildo. (A depiction of this is portrayed in the mainstream Japanese film Tokyo Decadence.)
Clothing and accessories
The stereotypical dominatrix is a stern, coldly beautiful woman dressed in a sexy, fetishistic all-black costume. Usually a tight leather or latex corset, fish-net stockings and high heels or a full-body latex catsuit with boots. This image has become so iconic that most pro-dommes wear this type of ensemble to satisfy client expectations. Some prefer to be cool and inaccessible, remaining fully covered from head to toe, while others flaunt their sexual power by wearing revealing outfits or performing while partially nude.
Each item of apparel is carefully chosen to create a powerful, intimidating presence. Stiletto-heeled pumps with sharply pointed toes and high-heeled boots (sometimes thigh-length) are the standard choices. A dominatrix might also wear specific footwear requested by her client. Many male submissives in particular are foot fetishists who enjoy boot-licking humiliation or being walked on with high-heel shoes.
Parts of military uniforms and insignia, especially from Nazi Germany, may also come into play. An SS officer's black leather boots, swagger stick, and peaked cap (as well as a leather hat based on that design) are popular items for creating an image of sinister dominance. The military-style dominatrix look was largely inspired by the lurid Nazi exploitation films of the 1970s, along with the controversial The Night Porter. These films combined Nazi cruelty with kinky sexuality resulting in a new archetype of role play fantasy. For example, the S&M-based comedy Walk All Over Me features a German uniform (see YouTube clip).
Typically the hair is worn tightly pulled back into a single braid, ponytail or wound into a severe-looking bun. The straight-cut bangs of iconic '50s bondage model Bettie Page has also been widely imitated by dominatrices as well as fetish film stars. Makeup generally includes the heavy application of dark eyeliner and eye-shadow plus bright red lipstick. A leather collar, chains, wide leather belt, and long black opera gloves of leather or latex are popular items worn to create an image of authority.
Some dominatrices travel as part of their work, carrying as many basic items that can fit into a suitcase. Others maintain fully-stocked "torture dungeons" with elaborate bondage and suspension equipment and only accept in-house clients.
The classic disciplinary implements are the riding crop, flogger, and single-tail whip. And some, like GwenMedia owner Isabella Sinclaire, are experts at cracking a bullwhip without causing serious injury.
Dominatrices in literature
Rosa Coote is a fictional dominatrix appearing as a stock character in a number of works of Victorian erotica, including The Convent School, or Early Experiences of A Young Flagellant (as the notional author) published by William Dugdale and "Letters to a Lady Friend or "Miss Coote's Confession" in the magazine The Pearl (1879-1880). Her counterpart is Mrs Lechworthy, who also appeared as a stock character in a number of works of Victorian erotica.
L’Homme-chien aka La Comtesse au fouet (1906) by Pierre Dumarchey (Pierre Mac Orlan) is the story of a dominatrix who turns the male hero into a "dog-man". Under the pen-name Miss Sadie Blackeyes, he wrote many popular flagellation novels.
Ironwood (1988) by Don Winslow. This first novel in the series features the imperious Cora Blasingdale, cruel headmistress of a private school for girls. An ongoing power struggle between her and James, the narrator of this tale, ends in a classic turnabout, and a painful lesson in humility for Cora.
Dominatrices on film
Some notable mainstream films with depictions of dominatrices, in an even mix of comedies and dramas, include:
- Venus in Furs (1967), this sexploitation film is a modern day adaptation of the 1870 novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.
- Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1974); Nazi exploitation classic introduces Ilsa, first in a line of sadistic "Nazi bitch" dommes who freely use whipping, torture, and sexual slavery in German prison camps.
- Maîtresse (France, 1976), A thief (Gerard Depardieu) breaks into the house of a pro-domme and begins to help her "train" her clients.
- Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), comedic scene played for laughs of sexy Valerie Leon as stereotypical leather-clad domme who lashes bumbling Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) with a bullwhip.
- Eating Raoul (1982), dark comedy includes housewife who becomes Doris the Dominatrix at swingers' parties and gives pro-domme advice to the character played by Mary Woronov.
- Personal Services (UK, 1987), set in a Femdom brothel. (YouTube clip)
- Batman Returns (1992) Michelle Pfeiffer as the latex-clad, whip-cracking Catwoman.
- Tokyo Decadence (1992), Japanese call-girl caters to various client fetishes and works with a dominatrix.
- Exit to Eden (1994), Dana Delany is mistress of an S&M resort.
- Oblivion (1994) and Oblivion 2: Backlash (1996), sexy Musetta Vander as "Lash", a Bettie Page look-alike with an electrified whip.
- Venus in Furs (1994), Dutch film that faithfully recreates the story in the original novel.
- Dark Secrets (1997), about a private S&M society (video clips: YourFileHost, trailer)
- Preaching to the Perverted (1997); a fetish-industry pro-domme is the hero of the story.
- Payback (1999), Lucy Liu as a fierce dominatrix call-girl video
- Dancing at the Blue Iguana (2000); Jennifer Tilly is a pole dancer and part-time pro-domme.
- One Night at McCool's (2001); role-playing Liv Tyler beats Paul Reiser with a riding crop (video).
- EuroTrip (2004), Lucy Lawless camps it up as a German pro-domme video clip
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Angelina Jolie poses as a dominatrix in memorable scene. (video)
- Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical (2005, video at YouTube) Kristen Bell in a fantasy song and dance number.
- Barb Wire (2006), Pamela Anderson (video clip)
- Lockout (2006), part-time pro-domme spanks male client in horror film (entire film on YouTube).
- Shortbus (2006), F/M whipping scene (video at xHampster)
- Walk All Over Me (2007), about pro-domme Tricia Helfer and protege Leelee Sobieski; features several role-play costumes, (promo film)
- Deep In the Valley (2009), cliche dominatrix smacks several nurses with her riding crop and gives a guy a punishment enema in exaggerated fantasy-comedy (complete film on YouTube).
- The Ceremony (Sweden, 2014), documentary on famous French dominatrix Catherine Robbe-Grillet and the ceremonies she holds in her chateau (trailer on YouTube).
Vintage fetish films and modern videos
Silent stag films featuring kinky scenes of bondage, whipping, and spanking date back to the 1920s. However, the earliest films to depict the classic leather and corset-clad dominatrix are Irving Klaw's 8mm fetish film loops from the 1950s. His most famous model being the legendary Bettie Page, who alternated between playing a stern dominatrix and a humiliated submissive. (Most of these film shorts have been re-issued on DVD by Cult Epics as Bettie Page: Bondage Queen.)
The production of underground adult films sharply increased with the introduction of Super 8mm film in 1965. The appearance of dominatrices increased throughout the '60s in countless silent fetish loops (5 to 10 minutes in length). These depicted simple scenarios with female slaves being bullied, bound, tormented, whipped, and paddled. The majority of these films were all-female (F/F); the rise of male-submissive or femdom videos was not to come for another two decades. These 8mm loops were under-the-counter products available only in sex shops and via mail order ads placed in men's magazines.
By the 1970s the pornography industry evolved from clandestine film loops to feature-length movies shown in mainstream theaters. A number of S&M-themed adult films were produced that featured a dominatrix character. Three from 1976 are Dominatrix Without Mercy (with Vanessa Del Rio and Jamie Gillis), Femmes de Sade, and The Night of Submission (with Annie Sprinkle and Vanessa Del Rio).
In the 1980s, the explosion of the VHS home video market led to the mass production of a wide variety of BDSM and spanking fetish videos. The majority of these, especially the many dungeon-based S&M videos, required a strong dominatrix character to administer various forms of discipline. Thus, a new category of adult video performers emerged to meet this need. A number of porn stars, fetish models, and even a few pro-dommes launched a second career playing stern mistresses — while others specialized in portraying submissive slave girls. Some performers became well-known for playing dominatrix roles such as Alexis Payne (House of Milan, Shadow Lane, etc.), Sharon Mitchell (London Enterprises), Stephanie Locke, Sharon Kane, Mistress Jacqueline, aka Jacqueline Omerta (before she went on to form her own company, Pacific Force), Irene Boss of MIB Productions and Isabella Sinclaire, owner of GwenMedia and Ivy Manor Videos. This industry, as well as the video dominatrix character, continues to thrive due to the Internet, DVDs, and the continuing evolution of digital media.
To date, the most visible dominatrix on television has been the recurring guest-star role of fetish club owner "Lady Heather" (played by Melinda Clarke) on CSI. So far this character has appeared in six episodes.
Other TV shows (see also Spanking on television) with memorable dominatrix appearances include:
- Nestor Burma (1991-2003), French detective series; Burma's secretary Helene goes undercover as a dominatrix (video clip).
- Jennifer Garner as an undercover domme in Alias (video clip).
- Jack of All Trades episode featuring the Marquis de Sade
- Secret Diary of a Call Girl starring Billie Piper
- Tia Carrere on Nip/Tuck
- Sharon Lawrence in Desperate Housewives (video clip)
- Kadee Strickland roleplaying in Private Practice
- The Nanny, Fran Drescher (video)
- Eliza Dushku in Dollhouse
- Mendol Ikemen Idol, a Japanese comedy-drama, with a dominatrix cast member.
- Club De Cuervos (Mexico, 2015), dominatrix whips a man (video)
- Dina Meyer (video 1, video 2) and several others play pro-dommes at a fetish club for the TV series Castle in the 2010 episode: "The Mistress Always Spanks Twice."
Isabella Sinclaire, pro-domme and owner of the fetish video company GwenMedia, appeared as a BDSM consultant on the Spike TV series 1000 Ways to Die. The episode featured a session with a dominatrix that resulted in the client's death due to a severe latex allergy. (This segment can be watched on YouTube.)
In the fall of 2009 Sinclaire also appeared as a latex-clad dominatrix in a humorous television commercial for Wonderful Pistachios airing in the U.S. In the ad, she places a single pistachio on a chair, steps back, then cracks open the nut with her whip. The voice-over tag line is "Dominatrices do it on command." (This ad can be seen on YouTube.)
L’Homme-chien (The Man-dog) a 1906 novel by Pierre Dumarchey.
A mistress flogs her female slaves. Photo by Biederer Studio (c. 1930s).
- Professional dominant
- Dominatrix high ponytail
- Spanking and BDSM in TV commercials
- The History of spanking in film
- Dominatrix on Wikipedia
- Professional dominant on Wikipedia
- List of dominatrices in popular culture on Wikipedia
- Dominatrix Life Coach (Spanking Veronica Works), Snow Mercy, photos
- video clip from BDSMtrainer.com (6 min.)
- Taylor St. Claire Dominatrix (64 min. video), Julie Simone
- Woman wearing black bodysuit, holding whip, low section (stock photo)
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