| This was written without being able to consult or personally verify the stories of the three people most affected, but where possible I aimed for a harm reduction approach. I do not link to any source that contributes to the the outing two sex workers, and put my focus primarily on Satanatrix not to diminish the agency of the two others involved, but because she has been most vocal about her personal philosophies.
I caution readers that my interpretation and recounting of the situation will, necessarily, be imperfect. However, my motive for writing this is because nobody else I can find has. Indeed, for all the attention given, nowhere else but the sexworker and sexwork aligned femdom community has taken the part of Satanatrix and Empress Ming. I must tip my hat to the podcast, What Women Want for being the only other effort, outside of the immediate community of the victims, to try to combat the barrage of nonsense from mainstream media coverage, and as he has an own voice interview with Satanatrix, you should definitely take the time to listen.
Once upon a time, in 2020, three people, Satanatrix, AKA Lady Vi; Empress Ming; and the priest of the parish decided that St. Peter and Paul’s Catholic church in New Orleans was a good place to do some spiritually themed femdom. Two years later, after the filming of an ill-fated fetish-flick-cum-ritual resulted in the arrest of the three participants, the trial part of the fiasco has finally ended. It did so in the most American way possible, a plea bargain that knocked what might have been a pair of felonies (institutional vandalism & obscenity) to a misdemeanor version of the former. And yet, lest you think that’s a slap on the wrist, it carries a fine of $8K, to be paid in 6 months; two years suspended sentence (with intrusive supervision); and a vigorous NDA that stops not only release of any video or pictures from the event, but the two Dominatrices even talking about it to the media in any capacity. Further, the church had all details of the trial sealed.
The church was very upset by this incident, going as far as ritually burning the altar. The priest was obviously fired, and awaits his own trial, having had a falling out with the two dommes. Thus, the details of the defense now seem split between “I thought we could do it because he said it was ok” versus “that woman, she tempted me”. As it was ever so, where sexuality and social censure intersect.
And it was, in the lingering aftermath, a terrible ordeal for the three involved, particularly the relatively blameless women. Likely the fallout from that first arrest did the most damage. Even without a conviction, including if they had somehow fought it out to a not-guilty verdict, most of the worst consequences fell into place the moment they were placed in custody, head shots taken in loosely striped jail clothes, and thence released to the world. Long before any guilt was legally established, the arrest resulted in the immediate outing of both Satanatrix and her colleague via their real names.
America is awful about accused people. Leaving aside the various issues of violence and pre-conviction incarceration, any arrest is made immediately public in the most damaging way possible. Prior to the internet, these police records have a long history of being mined for entertainment. Now, with the vulture-like presence of mugshot scraping protection racket sites, and reputational damage an arrest alone can do to one’s employability, for the average citizen, any brush with law enforcement can be life-ruining. For sexworkers, this sort of mass outing is even more devastating. There are no legal protections to discriminating against them, even in provision of the most basic services. Just from what Satanatrix shared about her experience, this ranged from closed bank accounts, because financial institutions are shitty about even legal sex work; bans from dating sites purely based on her livelihood; and an uptick of the inevitable flood of death threats and other harassment. Outing harmed their finances; mundane lives; and safety. This, by the way, is not how other countries do things.
Although the two dommes were able to post bail, they also had to grapple with the financial consequences of being anchored to a criminal charge. This stuck them with repeated travel to the jurisdiction, legal fees, the long term impact of meeting bail costs, and so forth. Neither is this process anything other than grueling. Trials in the US can drag on for years at a time, and rely on terrorizing the suspects with worst possible outcome interpretations of what they allegedly did. By doing this, prosecutors hope victims compromise and pleads down to something lesser, just to get it over with, or to avoid the risk of a longer shot conviction. Hence severity of the two charges, a pretty common form of prosecution blackmail to get you to cooperate. That’s on top of any biases of the jurisdiction. Satanatrix and Ming both attribute their willingness to plead guilty to anything to not expecting a fair trial, even if they tanked all the other consequences.
It is a pity, because the defense was pretty solid, if they had any hope of an unbiased court. Despite rumors of trespassing and blatant exhibitionism, what took place happened in a locked building, at night. As far as obscenity, the trio had no expectation of being seen, and the priest had full access to the building they were in, including full permission to decide who could enter. In her own words, before the NDA came into effect, Satanatrix describes the passerby who noticed what they were doing as closer to a peeping tom than a casual observer. And, ultimately, we have no information what the filming was for, but it’s not unusual for clients to want to record their sessions, so it may very well have been intended to be a completely private experience. Ultimately, it should have been between the priest and his employer, and if the courts needed to be involved in a matter of film distribution, a civil matter. Alas, that’s not the world we live in.
Still, there’s something else that stood out to me about this case. Sure, news sites leapt on this like wasps to a smear of honey, profiting off the details even as they condemned them. You could just be upset about this as a matter of sexual freedom and slut shaming, or as a miscarriage of justice. And yet, looking at what she did get stuck with, more than anything else I have to feel that Satanatrix has the unpleasant honour of having the state persecute her, in the year of Our Lord, 2022, for Heresy.
No, seriously, Heresy, not just garden variety lewdness.
Heresy is an old word, but it cannot be ignored as a factor in this case. Of course, most heretics these days these days are byproducts in splits of orthodox minutiae, not concerned with the more secularly anchored things like the validity of geocentrism. For modern Catholics, while there are internal, fandomlike pockets who are incredibly tchy about matters of language of liturgy; the gender of who can preach in and what role; and so forth, as an institution, outside of Catholicism’s tedious, angry special interest journals, nobody cares. Likewise, in our ostensibly secular world, the Catholic Church’s ability to formally bully people over defying its word has largely confined itself to sandbagging justice for its genocide victims, dragheeling on their massive internal sexual abuse issues, and doing it’s best to unite with other flavours of Christian to dismantle any power people might have over their uteri. Individual faithful do worse, of course, to suppress what they see as threats to their religion, but the Catholic Church can officially do little more than a denial of their services to their members. And, generally, we let them police their own as long as it’s bickering over titles or memberships. Nobody really cares, these days, when they defrock someone over differing dogma, or even when a whole congregation is relegated to protestant status over some internal molehill of evolving tradition they decided to die on. Generally speaking, the state doesn’t care what your creed is, it’s the same tax status whether you believe in saints or spaghetti. And as far as the secular fifth estate caring about first estate, we might hear about if a pro abortion politician is denied mass or not. Not this case. Add a little sex, and presto, it went internationally viral. And yet, this isn’t just sex abstracted from other contexts.
Satantrix was martyred for her faith and her art. Of course, it isn’t that the Catholic church has no history of persecuting sexuality for sexuality’s sake. I certainly don’t deny that horny rubbernecking caused damage, as demonstrated by the lascivious attention of tabloids like the Sun and the Daily Mail, and the self important, protest-too-much-prudery of the state of Louisiana. Nonetheless, the church’s outrage goes beyond the mere condemnation of sodomy or birth control. It is the threat the trio represented to their spiritual domain and authority. Meanwhile, for the victims of the incident, it was not just a matter of fetishism, but part of a demonstrated pattern of a sincere faith, one that is actively persecuted by Christianity in the manner of Cronus eating his children.
Readers might say I am stretching the point. Satanatrix, after all, is hardly getting any cease and desists just over her horned garb, upside down crosses, or suspiciously cathedral-like iconography. Nobody is saying she can’t spit in the face of god, at least outside whatever hatemail she was getting over the demon motif and leading worship thing, already. Reader, you might even point out it was doing the business in the church, that ultimately got her the reaction that it did. You might feel it fair to say that her right to practice her beliefs stops where it infringes on that of others. Besides, you might argue, is it even fair to call it a real religion, not a gimmick? Satanatrix doesn’t even believe in literal Satan! And whatever hapened in the church was probably a commercial thing! And she did the thing most targeted to profane, explicitly calling it a defilement! And it was kind of mean to the random congregants of St. Peter and Paul’s, probably no worse a group of humans than anywhere else in the world… But, still, inclusive of all that, ultimately, what happened was also a profoundly religious activity.
It was profanity and blasphemy in the sense that only deep nerds know the meaning. Not just cuss words, but the vulgar, now elevated and the authority of the church on its doctrine being questioned as the sole means to interpret the divine. The sex was important, yes, but ultimately this was a lot closer to discovering our naughty priest was conducting ceremonies that denies the unity of the Trinity or preying to Mecca on the sly.
And, even after his indiscretions, the man was still not the worst employee in his diocese.
I am speaking, by the way, of Pat Wattingy, a person in the church specific media (oh those disappointed bishop emails, such meek regret!) curiously can’t help but address at the same time as they fret about their little Satanist incursion. Often, in fact, the consenting trio is the lede in the church’s PR and internal to catholic complaining. Because a convicted child molester (who is alleged serial to boot) like Wattingy is exactly as bad, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, as a guy making free on their important podium with other grown ups. Something tells me that for all the Archbishop was busy ritually burning the altar at St. Peter and Paul’s, they think nothing more is warranted than releasing PR about being shocked and disappointed; and advising a little mental contemplation alone with God for everyone. For a guy preying on kids he had the care of. You know, for years.
Here is what the Catholic Church Believes: Consenting adults making free on your fixtures ruins them to the point of demanding ritual theatrics, but making free on your most vulnerable parishioners, not so much.
Still, I am not unsympathetic to the congregants of the church that hosted the aborted threesome feeling a little icked out. Nobody likes to be the subject of protest-art, even when it is valid. I just think the motives of the two dommes here has some significant mitigating factors. And I can’t help but feel that a diocese that allegedly had some 70(!!?) of its clergy doing atrociously abusive things to minors and only needs to ritually cleanse it’s paraphernalia when it’s used as a film set has its priorities out of order.
Back to Satanism 101, and whatnot
I admit, without an interview, I’m doing little more than tabloid style speculation on Satanatrix’s motives, myself. These are not her explicit words and the nature of her conviction means the poor woman can’t even contradict slander about the event or intentional lies, much less if I am missing her intent. Nonetheless, I do think you can take the following as facts: Her choice to do what she did (and does, as self representation) was more than just branding. The fiasco wasn’t just a guy with some incredibly conflicted feelings about his career choice hiring help to work through them. It was an act of transgressive art, existing in intersection of fetish, protest and faith. The faith I speak of is not that of the congregants of St. Peter and Paul’s, but the phenomenon of Satanism, itself. And it’s hard to be a practicing Satanist without being in literal conflict with various bits of Christianity.
Further, while a valid religion, Satanism is ultimately an offshoot of its parent faith, depending on Christianity’s expanded universe mythos for its own cosmology and decor choices. Realistically, outside of the fever dream fantasies of witchfinders of centuries past and the more recent patient coached fabulations of the Satanic Panic, very few people who practice Satanism these days, or indeed ever, believe in literal demons. Satanatrix falls in that category of preferring metaphor and aesthetic, over alternatives like worshiping either a literal embodied evil; or a rehabilitated Lucifer, who isn’t actually the villian. That’s consistent with the majority of modern Satanists. They’re collectively, largely just about responsible freedom in goth pants and atheist protections of violations in the church/state boundary. But, an ideological faith without the belief in magic is still a faith. And Satanists, as a whole, use this particular transgressive aesthetic as a core for their personal ethics, because they are an offshoot of Christiianity in the same sense as the Unitarian Universalist.
I don’t personally identify as a Satanist, but the St. Peter and Paul Trio also all had very good grounds to do this as an act of protest.
The Catholic Church, albeit probably not the congregants of the church itself, had and have it coming. That’s not to say I don’t have complicated feelings about making limiting declarations on who we should and shouldn’t be mean to. Still, let’s not be dishonest: But, the Church as an institution has a broad reaching, millenia spanning influence on the lives of billions of people. It’s to the degree it has its headquarters seated in the United Nations. It further has centuries of explicitly persecuting and suppressing everything that Satanatrix is. Given another era, it would have leapt at the chance to enslave her in a Magdalene Laundry or outright murder her, by hanging, burning or torture.
It is further a rather monstrous flex on the Church’s part that they used the sort of laws to prevent mosques and synagogues from being hate crime’d to squeal about their persecution. What can you say about a place that pleads vulnerability and has the very criminal jurisdiction it is complaining in named “St. Tammany’s Parish”?
While I would never advocate unkindness to individual Catholics, on the basis of their faith alone, it’s ludicrous to pretend that St. Peter and Paul’s church was significantly victimized. What they did was drag out an internal dispute of how one is allowed to worship to the secular courts, and used it to try to send a warning that they still had the power to be the arbitrators of all things. Indeed the biggest injury they can claim, subtext beaming off of things, is that one of their own privately but messily disagreed with them enough to bring two professionals to help.
Also, the Catholic Church didn’t freak out this much over the last porn film made in a church
One of the other things that makes me think about the religious persecution angle is the parallel case of the porn star, Babsi, from 2014. This time it took place in Austria, and again, involved something you might interpret as intentional blasphemy if the sexuality by itself was really that problematic. And, although that’s a Catholic majority country, the reactions of the Catholic Church there is particularly telling in face of the tantrum of New Orleans.
For a solo film, Babsi got a 3 month suspended sentence and a fine, which adjusted for Euro VS dollar was not far off the mark from what Satantrix and Ming got to share. And yet when researching that case, articles note that in majority Catholic Austria, the police chose to identify her only by her stage name. Likewise, no headshots of Babsi were firehosed across the web. But, it’s not comparable in the Catholic Church’s internal reaction: her masturbating with a bible and rosary, and exposing her breasts were determined not enough sin to require reconsecrating the church. “the sacraments which were celebrated in the past few weeks in the parish church are still considered valid.” No property was determined needing destruction. Even the fine amounted to what she had already earned selling the film she’d made, and the church moved on without much further attention.
Ultimately in the ArchDiocese of New Orleans, the carrying on and altar burning are entirely the Church throwing a hissy about a Black Mass. There’s no other way to read the dramatic reaction than them not being as mad about the sex itself as the threat to their authority, internally and on the larger secular society they live in. And I am sorry, your Holiness, the state has no business sorting out whatever symbols you want to argue over. That’s a you problem. One of your own went either heretical or apostate, and you used your massive earthly and profane powers to take revenge on them and their two companions. All while playing up your victimhood to the point of hysteria and distancing yourself from any culpability you might have in your own, now well known terrible behavior.
Where to go from here?
One can’t undo the harm that has already happened, uprooting the lives of Satanatrix and Empress Ming, but community efforts have already been made to help fundraise, defraying legal costs and then assisting in covering the fine. If you want to be a part of it, Satanatrix is accepting donations to further cover the significant burden and $8K levey, paid to the church, is costing them.