NOTE: If this is your first visit to one of my pages, you might want to
check out my home page first, so you have an
idea where I’m coming from.
Imagine, if you please, that you’re a young female writer, whose
editor has recently told you he needs more nonfiction, and can you
provide it? You, of course, answer with a hearty yes, and then scramble
your brain trying to think of good nonfiction topics. Keep in mind that
this is for a porn magazine, and so the article has to be sex-related.
Then you remember that a friend of yours mentioned that a friend of his
worked as a dominatrix. That should be exciting, right? You ought to be
able to get a good story out of that! So you call him up, and he puts you
in touch with her and another woman, who work at the same House, and they
invite you to come up, look around the House, and interview them.
That’s what happened to me some months ago, and led to an
interview with the lovely Selene and Noelle, 20-somethings and
part-time professional dominatrixes. I also talked extensively with
Chris, the woman who runs FantasyMakers, a House up in El Cerrito, CA.
The interview with the dommes will be appearing in the next issue of
Puritan Magazine, and will eventually be reprinted on my site. What I’d
like to talk about here is the philosophy behind the House, and Chris’s
execution of that philosophy.
In my last column, I told you about Lady Sally’s, an invention of
Spider Robinson. Lady’s Sally’s House was staffed with artists, not
hookers, who interacted with clients, not johns. It was a safe, sane
place to work, and Lady Sally genuinely cared for all of her artists. For
more on that philosophy, check out the last column — this won’t make as
much sense if you haven’t read it. Imagine my surprise when I found out
that Chris at FantasyMakers had not only read about Lady Sally, but had
modelled her House on Sally’s.
It’s a House of domination, not a whorehouse, of course.
Prostitution isn’t legal in California, but professional domination is, as
long as the participants don’t actually have sex (defined as
penile/vaginal intercourse by the law, if I remember correctly). Chris is
even more careful than that — the clients aren’t allowed to touch the
dommes’ genitals or vice versa. Either can masturbate themselves, if
they care to, but it’s strictly a spectator sport. Still, one wonders
about the state of California’s definitions of sex — there’s a hell of a
lot you can still do, if you choose to, outside the narrow confines of
penile/vaginal intercourse. And some of the women (there were one or two
male artists associated with FantasyMakers, but it was predominantly
female) did choose to go to the limit of the law. Only if they chose to,
One of the most clear ways in which Chris attempted to protect her
artists was by means of a chart. The chart categorized various behaviors
(tickling, massage, toy shows (artist masturbating with sex toys for
client’s view), f/f play, foot worship, submission, dominance, roleplay,
etc…) and the artists each marked how they felt about the activity and
what they were willing to do. If you worked there, you could say that you
loved tickling and massage, would be willing to do toy shows for extra
money and absolutely refused to do foot worship, for example. There was
no stigmatism attached to only being willing to do a few things — it
simply meant that there’d be less chance of you being matched up with
clients, and therefore that you’d probably make less money. The House
didn’t pressure you into any activity at all, even though they took a
percentage of what you earned as rent. Chris believed strongly in
treating artists in the House as independent contractors — and so, of
course they got to choose what they wanted to do.
Chris also did education. She was always willing to demonstrate
the safe way to do a technique, or have someone else teach it, or organize
a class. She brought in outside instructors on safe play, to ensure that
everyone understood how careful they needed to be. Little medical fliers
were posted on the bulletin board, warning of the dangers of carelessness
with fluids. Knowledge was freely disseminated, openly available. She
was strict about the use of latex barriers anytime the artist and the
client were in danger of exchanging fluids. She made sure that incoming
artists knew the hazards of the job, and the ways to protect
There was a good atmosphere there. The women were not only
beautiful — they were bright and interesting as well, friendly to a
stranger and willing to talk about their work. They seemed comfortable
with each other and with their own bodies. The common room (off-limit to
clients) was often a cheerful chaos of women laughing and changing and
chatting and munching on the macaroni and cheese or other basics that
Chris stocked to make sure nobody went hungry if they were pulling a long
shift or broke that week.
I’m not saying FantasyMakers was perfect. I only hung around for
a few days, and undoubtedly as an outsider I missed some problems, some
tensions. What I am saying is that it was refreshing and reassuring to
see what can be done with a positive attitude, with the feeling that this
is not just a job — it’s an art form, a pleasure. Selene said in her
interview that she regarded her work as a gift to the client, one that
they were happy to accept. A lot of positive feedback to be had, and a
lot of pleasure to be shared. What struck me most in the time I spent at
FantasyMakers was how HAPPY the women seemed — when they were griping,
they were griping about how their bike had gotten stolen, or the kids were
sick…not about the work.
Maybe in the new, healthier sexual world that I’m
hoping to help create, an atmosphere like the one at FantasyMakers
will become the norm. Maybe that place is a sign of a change
in our culture, of a new way of looking at sexuality and human
relations. Intimations of good things to come, perhaps.
Next column: Elements of Attraction: Is There a Place for Androgyny?
– Mary Anne
October 14, 1997