Lifestyle VS Pro and The Male Sub Loot Grab

So I was recently reading the advice of the blogger Cara Sutra, on the difference between professional and lifestyle dominants. And I’m sorry, she got it wrong. Cara is an experienced and award winning sex journalist and I have nothing personally against her, but this post is rife with errors and the sort of general misinformation that is not helping anyone.

As far as what she said, initially she wasn’t too bad: one of them charges by the hour and the other one doesn’t. No big deal, right? Then she got into more detail and things went tits up.

There is a world of difference between a talented Dominant who is financially recompensed for her time and talents, and a sex worker who chooses to incorporate bondage and corporal punishment into the services she offers. Too many people make the mistake of assuming that the two are one and the same.

Professional Dommes are not prostitutes. Any remuneration is for her Domination skills and expertise, not for sexual contact or sex acts. Sexual contact will not be a part of any session with any Professional Dominatrix worth her salt.

No, not really- this has a problem in that it’s trying to distance the penis touchers from the people who just do hit & bossy while not considering the broader context of the differences. There are reasons why this makes sense (much like the efforts to convey that in strip clubs, there isn’t usually sex in the champagne room) but it’s a problem, which I will explain.

Sex worker is a broad continuum of people in a diverse industry, and includes everyone from porn performers to street walkers, but prodoms are part of that club. Like all people, professional dominants have their own personal comfort points and limits, but this is one of those things that’s more on a spectrum and heavily determined by your local vice laws. While professional dominants obviously focus on D/s and generally don’t do vanilla sex acts with clients (and get fed up with being offered an extra $20 for a happy ending), many also limit themselves to specific BDSM related things, for example no strapons or otherwise sexually touching the guy based either on what the local laws allow or what they feel is okay, VS professionals who are happy to snap on a glove and edge or finger clients.

But by trying to protect professionals from being asked to do things they are not comfortable with, Cara Sutra is perpetuating the idea that mixing sexual stuff with your D/s is bad, and that this is all about dom skill, when in practice, fucking your subs doesn’t make you less dominant. This is a particular sort of snobbery born out of frustration- when it comes to the pros I feel like a lot of the women with this attitude are pulling rank because claiming you are more dominant this way sounds better than explaining that the average client doesn’t get you horny, you don’t need that kind of risk in your life or that you have enough problems with the legality of your profession as it is.

But then Cara Sutra talks about lifestyle, which is where I fall, and she hits one of my pet peeves.

That is not to say that Lifestyle Domination equals “getting it for free”. The nature of FemDom shows that submissives would do well to recognise the value of their Mistress and show their appreciation of her time once accepted into her service. Not merely through obedience and submission, but regular gifts should at least be offered. If nothing else, it’s good manners and part of BDSM scene etiquette.

No. No. No. Arrgh, Fuck no. This taken for granted male sub loot grab is a marker of what I call “grey area prodoms”. These people bill themselves as ‘lifestyle’, but it’s said with palm extended, because as the reasoning goes, doms are scarce, so they decide they are worth it. It’s kink plus extras, right?

Look, I don’t care if you, in your own personal dynamic, give gifts to your lover- there are many ways to express affection. And yes, findom is a valid fetish. However, just being dominant and a woman in no way means I deserve to be compensated for my interactions with the opposite sex. Seriously, nobody tells lesbian subs to get out their wallets if they really want to show their appreciation. A male dom asking for prezzies would probably get laughed out of the dungeon. But somehow having tits and a desire to dominate means that male subs should presume gratitude by default. This is a problem because:

  1. It’s rife with exploitation, with newbie subs getting fleeced for trying to explore their kinks.
  2. It perpetuates the idea that a femdom is a service provider filling the male sub’s fantasy, rather than two or more equals coming together to do power exchange and kink for mutual satisfaction.
  3. It teaches malesubs they are worthless and opens them up to all sorts of abuse.

In discussion about this, a couple of times, the conversation has turned to the subject of how if he’s not gifting me, he’s exchanging something else, right? Like service! Like how femdom also assumes in a way that femsub doesn’t, that the sub has to bribe me for being willing to play along somehow.

Talk about being alienated from your own sexuality! While some of us are only doing it for the warm and fuzzies emotionally, I do this because it makes my cunt feel good, and I am in the majority of kinksters, not the minority. Look, seriously, this is not a rare gift I was given to play out on an audience of deserving men, this is what the fetish fairy handed me when the kinks were being given out.

When I spank Wildcard, it’s not because Wildcard drapes me in diamonds or folded all my laundry – the only compensation is his upturned ass, his willing and enthusiastic consent and his arousal. When I beat the shit out of my friend at a play party and he’s in tears, he doesn’t buy me dinner for the grace of getting a unicorn to kick him in the balls- getting to do that to him is as much a privilege as a dominant as it is a privilege as a sub to be doubled over clutching his candy. Because you know what? Without a partner, my dominance is just me, my hand and my fantasies in ForeverAloneVille. Just like a partnerless sub.

You could argue that if Wildcard walked under a bus (god forbid), the demand for femdoms is such that I could find a male sub, but the reality is that while there are certainly more men apparently identifying as male subs, he’s kinda irreplaceable. Much like how Dee over at Dumb Domme wouldn’t be so ripped up about her boy having to move, or Ferns of Domme Chronicles would not be on such a lengthy search if a good partner was something female dominants really could take for granted.

Cara Sutra is selling the idea that rather than being an inherently good match, you should expect to jump through thirty kinds of hoops, backwards with a wad of cash in your mouth. But really, this sort of blurring of lifestyle VS pro also pops up again in her advice to femdoms on how to decide which role suits you.

A good answer to the question of lifestyle VS pro is that the latter are sex workers, so you shouldn’t do it unless you are prepared to be a small business owner/independent contractor in a marginalized industry. Easy, right? Let’s see what Cara Sutra says:

Knowing whether you are a Professional or Lifestyle Mistress, or a submissive drawn to Professional or Lifestyle Domination, comes down to a number of factors. These include your understanding of and attitude to your own kink as well as your personal life circumstances.

For instance, you may be a woman with no desire to manage a submissive outside of a set session, or a submissive who cannot commit time beyond a session to serve a Mistress on a more day to day basis. Professional Domination would suit both of these cases.

Dafuq?Hmm… uh, I guess people who aren’t 24/7 don’t exist? I’m really surprised someone with Cara Sutra’s background appears to literally not know what the fuck she is talking about. If you don’t want to do D/s outside of defined ‘scenes’ you should go pro? Reeeeally. How did we go from “pro doms are skilled professionals” to this being the better option for women doing short haul D/s?

I really hope this is a typo, but again, it’s not really good advice to male subs that if they are not into round the clock D/s (eg bedroom only) a prodom is a better choice for them either.

Then she talks about some of the challenges of trying to figure out your orientation and spits out this gem:

In order to reduce the chance of psychological, emotional and sometimes even physical hurt, it is important to determine your orientation and Domination needs as early in your kink journey as possible. Investing time and emotion into a Dominant/submissive bond which does not combine the right facets for one or both people involved is a painful event which can potentially take years to heal.

Thoughtlessly experimenting with D/s relationships is no less hurtful than toying with a person’s emotions in vanilla relationships. Ensuring you are both on the same page will mean you’re doing your best to guard against any loss of interest, feeling neglected, getting hurt or hurting someone who is investing time and emotion in you.

I’m not entirely sure what this had to do with deciding if sex work is for you, but it’s still silly. it sounds nice and considerate- after all, relationship failures suck! It’s even the subject of my last blog post, where a couple discovered they had to renegotiate their relationship after it was already established. But you know what? That’s not the same thing as being a shitty partner, that’s a normal part of human sexuality.

I don’t know how you could get physically hurt by, in effect, breaking up with someone, but if you do, you are doing something wrong. Realistically, you generally need to try stuff to confirm you like it, and claiming testing this stuff and being wrong is the equivalent of being intentionally emotionally manipulative is unreasonable.

Assuming you are a new male sub or female dom reading this, or just someone curious about some kink ideas they have, Cara Sutra’s blog post is going to actively spread misinformation. Not only does it encourage taking up being a prodom without any sort of realistic look into what that involves, but it gives a very skewwed idea of what is okay behaviour in a non-professional relationship, as well as putting way, way too much weight on getting your feelings hurt.

It’s shit like this that lowers the quality expectations for women trying to make a living doing this, while discouraging women who are personally into it from indulging their curiosity and for male subs to lead with a huge pile of promises and presents that get in the way of getting to know the guy, while reflecting the deep shame he feels for being saddled with a kink that gets treated like a burden. It’s also stuff like this why I wrote things like “why I make a big deal out of not being a pro femdom“, and part of why it took me until my early twenties before I was confident enough to call myself a dominant.

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7 Comments

  1. The idea of gifts being requisite implies that they’re the only way a male sub can meaningfully contribute to a relationship. It paints the female dominant as a gold-digger or the male sub as worthless as a person, both tropes we see more than enough of in mainstream porn. People wonder why female dominants seem to be so underrepresented? Likely this has a lot to do with women being told we’re not supposed to enjoy being dominant and that male submission is something lowly.

    The expectation that the man pay for dinner, woo with material things, etc. isn’t unique to F/m relationships. Male doms are expected to pay for fem subs (it’s taking care of his property, not showing tribute). In vanilla relationships, men are still expected to pay for more. Carrying this over into F/m relationships makes it even worse. It feels as though we aren’t really considered able to care for ourselves or our own needs; we need male support in order to play the dominant. It still looks like the male partner taking care of his property. And hell with that idea.

    I know I’m just repeating points you already made more eloquently. Just…grar! Consider me in vehement agreement.

    Reply
    • People wonder why female dominants seem to be so underrepresented? Likely this has a lot to do with women being told we’re not supposed to enjoy being dominant and that male submission is something lowly.

      This! I really thought, as a teenage girl, that being a female dom meant being a pro, with no distinction- while every male sub I’ve ever met has stories of random crazy people demanding tribute just for agreeing to a first meeting.

      Reply
  2. you got it RIGHT

    Reply
  3. Hi Ms. Pearl:

    An interesting discussion though based on your comments I doubt I will bother reading the article. There are lots of reasons to see a pro but looking for love should not be one of them. Conversely if a sub has very specific needs that most players consider extreme or he requires a very expensive/elaborate set up and/or he scripts his scenes to the finest detail he may be better off with a pro. Most subs see pros because they believe (rightly or wrongly) that nobody else will play with them. I don’t know much about the lifestyle scene but if a lifestyle player asked me for tribute I would run in the opposite direction as fast as my little subbie feet would carry me. In regards to your observation that not all lifestyle players are 24/7 I would venture to guess there are far more couples who practices BDSM in the bedroom than there are true 24/7 Mistress/slave relationships out there.

    Best

    hmp

    Reply
  4. I don’t know a lot about pure “Pros” as most people I know who do this professionally are also “lifestylers” with someone. And as for them and other lifestyle-only people, she got it wrong: (“… it can prove challenging for a submissive to prove their worth to a Lifestyle Domme and be accepted into her service…”). If both sides want it [ a bdsm reltionship of some degree] as you point out for yourself, it succeeds or fails by any number of aspects like any relationship and not simply ‘proving one’s worth’. Thanks for your critique.

    Reply
  5. Somewhere in here is the “othering” of the dominant woman.

    It’s as if there are two Femdom tracks: one in which normal sweaty human beings seek out compatible partners; and another where dommes are exotic sorceress-like creatures one “applies to” (e.g. for another example http://www.evilmonk.org/a/domme.cfm#How), who belong to a secret culture with its own language and customs.

    I guess people do both for real, so Cara isn’t necessarily *wrong*. However, I think the “normal sweaty human” track is probably the easiest one to follow.

    Reply
  1. I Before E, Except After BDSM: Lifestyle BDSM Vs Professional Domination | Sex~Kitten.net

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