The ProDom Problem Thing

Or: In which Miss Pearl opines on what she knows not.

Disclaimer: I am not a sex worker. I do not speak for sex workers. I really hope this is not patronizing and this is me trying to think about what I’m bombarded with. Tell me why I am wrong in the comments if you would like.

Professional female dominants are such an integral part of BDSM communities it’s functionally impossible to imagine the scene without them, but they are also one of the groups people get pissed off at most. Amateurs hate the fact that it turns sex into a job (especially non-pro femdom, where there is a decided difference between beating men because it makes you horny and beating men because you get paid, so the fact that news outlets generally are obligated to quote one pro per article on kink-in-real-life really colours things) or encourages judgment on performance standards. Male subs complain about getting spammed with business solicitations, or hand wring about the vulnerable and the naive being preyed on by wicked fraudsters. All these things suck.

But, in their defence, prodoms generally own the dungeons we play in, they make a reasonable deal of the porn we enjoy, and they tend to end up as sex educators and active contributing community members.

There’s more reasons…

They are also, by dint of their professional lives, liable to be more amenable into being made the spokespeople of kink. Since their faces and bodies are usually part of their marketing, turning their lost anonymity into a strength means they can speak where other people worry about job loss. From a feminist perspective, it’s often a women-in-control-of-their-lives industry, I think more so than porn.

My biggest issue with the pro/non-pro thing is one that really gets across the dilemma of sex work and other heavily stigmatized groups- I’m mostly pissed off by the fact that I get treated like a sex worker, but on the balance that’s not dealing with the fact that sex workers getting treated like sex workers is a serious problem in and of itself. Pushing sex workers out of the community is contributing to marginalizing them and not dealing with the actual problem, which is that some would be clients are assholes. so on the one hand, environments that heavily objectify women have the risk vector of dehumanizing me- on the other hand, leaving sex works to wrangle creeps seems pretty unfair.

Which leads to the Swedish solution of trying to ban paying but not asking for payment. I’m not really sure this helps either, but humans just don’t handle sex work well much in the way that we can’t handle sex well. About 99% of these problems would go away if we could eliminate the worst parts of sexism and banning sex work feels like telling adults that some people are too evil and stupid to handle it so nobody get to do it.

And women, by and large, get stuck with much of the social and body work that goes on, from cleaning up bodily fluids and tending to people’s physical heath, to ripping out body hairs from people’s genitals and massaging them. And many of these jobs are really crappy, can involve trafficking and exploitation. sexwork is just part of the continuum of demanding jobs. I think it is icky, but then again, so is call centre work. Besides, part of what makes sex trafficking possible is how nasty we are to sex workers- they don’t get the protection to be helped if they get in trouble, and because it gets treated the way it does, it becomes perfect bait for organized crime to dig in.

I’m not sure what can be done about the unequal commoditization of sex by gender, and that unabashedly sucks. It is very bizarre to see something so darn lopsided, and it’s a horrible feeling to be treated like something, that in the right context, has a price sticker. But I think empowering sex workers to protect themselves is a heck of a lot more likely to help them and me than forcing them underground.

And here’s where I bring up my only real quibble. Part of following a lot of prodoms on twitter is following along with their active attempts not to be arrested, raped or murdered- or shamed and punished.

But there’s one way the topic is approached I could do without. Specifically, can we knock the “wife” argument off please? I mean the one where you say “I might trade sexual services for money, but I’m just like a wife!” Wives, historically, have had very little say about the provision of sexual services. They were in effect, sex workers for a singe client as part of their wifely expectations. However with that came legitimized marital rape, where it was considered literally impossible to rape your spouse because they were obligated to to fuck you.  There has been a great deal of effort to utterly obliterate wifely sexual expectations such that no fault divorce is favoured because it’s nobody’s god damn business who fucks what.

Further more the lopsided support of women as a wives comes with some pretty monstrous baggage as far as the inequality of the sexes- this is not a comparison you want to make. Massage therapist, yes. Bartender, yes. Hair dresser, yes. But wife? No. Emphasizing the sexual obligations that were forced on wives in the past emphasizes things like the absence of opportunity. Since the pro side of sex work is that you are all competent adults able to make your own choices, and since the sex-for-money side of marriage is seen as a blight… It’s not a good combination to pick.

Besides, it normalizes inequality. Like, in my (failed) marriage, I was a contributing member of the household.  If I try that sort of union again there’s a  chance that I’ll be on roughly equal financial footing was my spouse- and if not, it won’t be by choice (because of systemic underpaying) or it’ll be because we are mutually making babies and again, there’s societal pressure to make women primary caretakers of children.

I would say one of the most common arguments against sex work is powered by the same sort of fear that powers homophobia. The “Degrades women!” one. You’ve probably heard the line that the fear of gay men is the belief that they’ll treat male homophobes  the way they these men treat women. Fear of sex workers is often the misguided belief that their presence is what causes people to treat you like sex worker- essentially failing to stand in solidarity in the hopes of not making yourself a target.

I suppose, to tie this together with a coherent point- I don’t want anyone trying to hire me as a sex worker, but that doesn’t make me better than them, or more mentally healthy or more able to make freedom of choice. And if like me, you might quibble with clients, or the stupid ass marketing copy that gets mistaken for real femdom, it’s not their fault it’s a thing and you probably hang out in their dungeon, so you can at least be nice.

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6 Comments

  1. random young domme

     /  July 24, 2013

    pro-dommes existing isn’t bad in itself, but it’s really messed up how they and femdom porn have essentially defined what femdom is. as a young woman who is sexually dominant, I sometimes feel rather hopeless about ever finding a relationship that I want because I can’t and don’t want to act like a pro-dominatrix and most submissive men seem to want that. I see nothing powerful about pro-dommes, they just do what their customers want, it’s no different than any other customer service job like working as a waitress in fast food chain and having to smile at customer no matter how annoying they are. not really powerful to me. I have nothing personal against pro-dommes but nothing will make me believe that what they do is any kind of example of genuine female power.
    it’s like out society is so afraid of women having any power that every form of it must be twisted into something that just serves male fantasies. no wonder so few women identify as dominant – why would they, when the only example of female sexual dominance they are offered is so powerless and has nothing to do with actual female desires….

    anyway, I really like your blog, I’ve read most of your writings and agree with a lot of what you say. I especially like your posts about male sub characters in media, which combines my two favorite subjects: analyzing media and femdom. glad I’m not the only one who wishes there were more F/m type romantic stories out there. you might be interested in checking out this blog about femdom themed books: http://femdombooks.blogspot.com
    I don’t really read romance but find the blog interesting but also rather depressing, because such a huge amount of those books get tagged as “not really femdom” or “maledom/vanilla dressed as femdom”.

    Reply
    • Hi Random Young Domme!

      Yes, I have a post in the works addressing that problem as the dom-as-service-worker and I’ll add your link to my resource list. It was really alienating for me as a female dom, when goth playboy bunny seemed like the only option.

      It’s really a feminist inclusion challenge for me, since sex work is often a female dominated industry (a lot of the pros are in charge of themselves) but no matter what can be said on it, it’s a profession posited on meeting male fantasies. It might be their fantasy to be that fantasy, but there’s a bitter bit of me tempted to put out a tip jar based on “not providing sexy pictures, not being available to you in any capacity, and not providing you with any services what so ever” and see how long it fills up. Which of course, it wouldn’t.

      And it also hurts male subs to be treated like clients, not lovers. Like, my partner can go to sex workers if he likes, but I don’t need his “tribute” (or accept tribute) to dominate him and would, in my fantasies, rather pay a guy than be paid.

      Reply
  2. boyish male

     /  July 25, 2013

    Advance apologies for my poor english.

    Let’s put a trick question. Suppose there were pro submales (for women) out there, and excluding the conventional social and gender roles that exist, it would be more acceptable than a dominant woman like you or remain the same concerns?

    I really love your blog you are a smart, sincere and beautiful woman.

    Catamit 23… please…

    w.h.

    Reply
    • I think, if we lived in a world where everyone could buy whatever sex they liked in equal measure it would be a completely different world. But the problem is not pro-doms, persay, but that the client-service worker relationship has superseded the people doing it for sexy time of for love. Some pros market themselves as helping clients live their submissive fantasy, but there is a lot of effort on the part of sex workers to try to make things appear to be a close to the real thing (a real relationship that’s just motivated by female desire) because that’s part of what people buy their services for. Everyone likes to believe that their waiter is really that happy and their sex worker just likes to fuck that much. Neither is evil for making you think that, but if you define human interactions based on service workers you miss important things.

      Reply
  3. Paul Tex

     /  August 11, 2013

    Hi there Miss Pearl,

    To take your waiter analogy out a bit further, I don’t think customers really care if the person serving them their food is happy with their job or not. A waiter gives good service to make their customer happy, as happy customers tip better. So to apply that to the dominatrix, a paying customer generally wants a scene that works for them. I realize there’s a lot of discussion around “whatever Mistress wants!”… but I think the number of people going to a domme who will pay multiple hundreds of dollars an hour are usually more concerned with their own fantasies and pleasure and not the domme’s so much. At least this is typical human nature. If I go to a lawyer or doctor I expect them to focus on my needs, not their own.

    So that makes domme’s just like any other service worker – in my view at least. But because they are servicing our emotions, analogies start falling apart due to the nature of humans, especially our sexual fantasies. Man/woman in their respective societal roles is still by far the norm. So add in sexuality and you get a potent mix of reasons why these sorts of things are still considered somewhat on the fringe.

    As you say, in a perfect world everybody would be able to go about and purchase the sex of their choosing from a person who is free to sell it without consequences. But we really don’t live in that world. Selling sex is pretty much a female-dominated business world (for a variety of reasons). I think any many who chose to be a gigolo or male master who worked exclusively with female paying clients would find business to be tough (except maybe Richard Gere!). It seems that most women just aren’t interested in paying for sex, especially when they get it when they want for the most part. Call it biology, or sociology, or whatever, but that’s the tendency that’s been observed throughout history. I don’t see that really changing.

    Reply
    • The challenge is that generally the customer needs to believe that the dom they’ve hired is into it in order for the fantasy to work. Professionals put a lot of work into creating an image- not many of them try to offer the “real” her outside the context of her work.

      Of course they have limits and boundaries and many are honest to god real doms (which, although it gets brought up, is a non-sequitur to the arguement, since it’s broadly not relevant if your sex worker is attracted to your configuration of gender or whatever) and it generally helps if they like their work. But the marketing copy tends to perpetuate a warped idea of what femdom is because the relationship is lopsided.

      There is a small minority of women who want to be femdom as it is represented in porn and professional services. There is a larger group who are attracted to D/s or sadomasochistic themes and practices- and one of the telling points about this is that we have a much greater focus on the idea of being a “dominatrix”, versus just being a dom who happens to be a woman.

      Reply

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