On BDSM Advice that Does Not Work

(Or A Long Response to A Tweet by Simone Justice)

Trying to talk about the subject of BDSM advice includes the laughably bad, but also the zone of places that’s subject to more of a grey area. Sometimes you have the SEO spam femdom garbage where it’s content that’s little more than key words strung together (thank you Cara Sutra and your active effort to make the kink internet just a little more broken to make a buck), sometimes it’s wankery like Elise Sutton, telling people what they wish to be true to sell books. Sometimes, more rarely, it’s actively dangerous advice that could seriously hurt people like the rapey nonesense of Peter Masters “Control” book.

But then there’s the whole category of advice that is just not useful, being given out because it assumes a lack of distinction between professional dommes and non professional dommes. In most cases this advice is more tedious than will ever do immediate harm to anyone, but it’s still something to be flagged.

Stuff like this casual Saturday morning tweet from Simone Justice…

There’s a lot to unpack here.

The problem with Simone Justice is that she runs a client school. That is to say her advice is, such that I have encountered from her, entirely built around the idea of dommes as small business owners. The language couldn’t be more explicit, although in conversation Justice repeated, over and over again that she just meant you needed to add value to the domme’s life.

(Likewise a lot of pro dommes in the twitter conversation that resulted explained to me Very Slowly and Patiently that service submission was a kink. Golly! Little old me couldn’t possibly know that people can get emotional fulfillment through giving. It’s not like “Acts of Service” isn’t a whole well known love language, is it?)

Now, being a good client is a good thing. Unfortunately, however, I keep having to say this: the expectations of a Provider/Client relationship cannot be the limits of how we define and describe femdom.

Doing so tends to lead to the sort of advice like the well put together, but ultimately limited “Mistress Manual“, a pretty good guide to being the partner out of a typical male sub’s fantasies, without assuming you are doing it for your sake.

The main people who suffer here are the non-pro dommes, because we are made invisible, due to porn and bad advice that centres the concept of female dominance on a very limited set of performance norms. Further, these are often restricted by laws in the area she is practicing, what sells, and the safety and comfort concerns of a dominant who is both not monogamous and preparing herself to open her door to a lot of partners, and be compensated in a tangible way by them.

Pro Dommes are not fake

Virtually every woman who works as a professional domme will explicitly describe herself as a Lifestyle and Pro. I reject the idea that professionals are fake or less authentic- and I will delete anyone who even tries to start that conversation in the comments. I do wish that any conversation on the subject didn’t immediately flip to “but I’m a lifestyle too!”

Look, at this juncture, there ain’t really any dominatrix on the market who could do this for any reasonable length of time without her passion being sincere. Have you looked at how much a fully equip dungeon costs, the extra laws you have to break, and for that matter the work involved? Although I have met dommes doing it for more complex reasons than sexual or emotional jollies, those who don’t want to do it usually make their way out of the business toute suite.

The big deal pros have their whole artistic careers and personas built around this. Some of them have it the primary focus of their identity, not just being a dominant, but being THE DOMINANT. Sex work has always been a compliment to the survival of artists and women who want to live in the space outside whatever the culture considers normal, and professionals typically hit both categories.

I find the people who insist she is Not A True Domme have a very rigid definition that either assumes sex work is not valid work, or is annoyed women get to define the terms under which they will do a particular behaviour. Occasionally, it’s just the belief that she is an evil seducer only after money, who harms innocent men.

Than being said, I don’t take whether or not a man can feel submissive to a woman and a measure of her dominance, but I am not in the business of telling women their reported lived experience is a a lie. I don’t particularly believe sub men get to decide who is and isn’t dominant based on their feelings, but professional dominants do report feeling dominant and coding their own behavior as behaving in a dominant way, so I am just going to agree with them here.

Pro Dommes DO Have Unique Norms

Unfortunately, even after we establish you *can* actually put a price on love, what doesn’t get established is the differences in how this works as a pro VS lifestyle thing. One significant problem already is that most people are not “lifestyle” dominants in the sense that they live in leather households or have a significant part of their lives defined by cultural structures around kink, but the snobbery around bedroom only, misses the essential part people’s sexuality plays in making a functional relationship. Even bedroom only bleeds outside of just the boundaries of a “session”.

I have said already, it’s a pro versus home cook question, with lots of travel and overlap between the categories. (Also there’s a whole group of people like me who are like food bloggers or amateur cooks who teach- we aren’t Chefs or Restaurateurs, but we do cook or discuss food in public)

But, what you can suggest as a rule of thumb is that pro-domme work needs to be particularly supportive of a plurality of partners, not monogamy. It, by virtue of survival, favours certain practices and not others. These include limited access to the time of and very clearly defined benefits to the dominant; very little emphasis on her own orgasms or sexual pleasure; avoidance of anything that can be construed as conventional sex; and the ability to maintain a certain kind of “on” with their partners.

In the past, and by that I mean my own young adulthood exploring being dominant, pro dommes still argued firmly they were not sex workers, and that femdom was not about sex. Although BDSM does not have to be sexual, even when the marketing and reasons were implicitly otherwise, persecution of sex workers made it better for people in that field to de-emphasize this. I really don’t blame them, but much like using a claim of women in general not being particularly sexual to discourage our harassment, it’s an imperfect solution with larger harms.

The concept of the sexless domme seems to have ceased. However, two remaining hold overs are the emphasis on heavier fetish framing; and a very rigid framework around what service is. In the latter case, a lot of the issue is the emphasis that it’s mandatory as good manners to do so for any femdom.

A Caveat On Service

Based on the marketing, one would think the act of being a dominant woman was a road paved with gold and unattractive men in badly fitted maid outfits taking care of your every need. This is not the case. Most professionals are not making big money, and most free labour is worth what you pay for it.

I think, therefore, that’s what generally causes lifestyle and pro alike to lean on exasperated version #1567 of “have you tried offering something, anything of use to her?!?” We have gotten a bit better at looking side eyed at the demand that you MUST give her money to talk to any domme, professional or not. Still, the attracting women with service first thing continues.

Simone Justice (shortly before she blocked me) repeatedly explained that her highly specific call for an online marketing, web design or graphical editing slut was just saying that a sub needs to offer value to the domme. I am old enough to have sat through so many fucking awkward resumes politely placed in my inbox by people who were told that this was their most valuable quality that I feel comfortable stating this is harmful.

I am going to leave aside whether or not this is exploitation, and talk more specifically that it’s fucking annoying, and makes the guys come across as way weirder and boundary crossing than I think anyone realizes. Now, with a lifetime career and a graduate degree, not everything anyone dashes off will be a golden wisdom of equal weight, but I’m taking the time to write a blog post precisely because the twitter conversation didn’t really seem to have my point understood.

Letting Strange Men Into Your Metaphorical House

Service is a fairly intimate thing. Much of the time the person is in your space, touching you or your things. Asking for an unpaid intern as fetish is slightly less physically invasive than giving me a foot massage, but to be frank I think I am more likely to accept the former at a party than let some random dude try to revamp the SEO on the site or something.

Of course, I am not the world, but accepting service with very specific value is an act of access such that most lifestyle dommes aren’t looking to give random guys the keys to the kitchen. So lets unpack the other part, the category of “personal subs”.

The most charitable read if what she said can be read as “when a woman trusts you more, then she will let you touch things that matter to her as a means of more personal submission, while getting your ass beat is less emotionally relevant to her”. But she didn’t, she told subs to learn a particular and a specific set of skills to get noticed and picked. To audition.

If Simone Justice gets Domme-fuzzies from letting people trade kink for marketing consulting, well, she can fill her elegant thigh high boots. It’s perfectly reasonable.

Just… her BDSM tip isn’t going to get most men from hello into an intimate relationship. And it very much positions a pre-existing dynamic where there has no business being one, in courtship. The whole framing of authority exists as something you are petitioning. Now if I were tooling around second life or a protocol night or any other scenario where the feelings were real but the mode of behaviour was an arbitrary roleplay, having an interaction based on being an entity, being petitioned as she suggests puts me in authority I did not consent to over him.

The Problem of Chemistry

For Justice, part of her appeal is the simplicity of her advice. Like it or not, web design certification is a lot more approachable and easy than trying to engage someone on the more complex levels we develop friendship and love in.

When you tell men to go forth and get professional level marketing and graphics skills, and you weight this as the primary factor that will move you closer to a dominant woman, you are simply saying something that is not true. It is more likely she will trust you enough to help her with things that matter to her if you have good chemistry and she likes you.

Sure she may get a thrill out of you being willing to do it that goes beyond just the utility of the task. But on the spectrum of picky to indifferent, more women are picky.

For professional dommes, of course, Justice’s tweet isn’t necessarily *entirely* bad advice. These are all things a modern prodomme does need, and usually a lot more than a professional cleaner, frilly maid’s uniform or not. It is a peek at how the sausage is made in any modern small business. But professional dominants are not the be all and end all of BDSM.

And Simone Justice, for all her claimed graduate school training and years in the BDSM scene, is largely just selling another facet of the pro experience and calling it the whole thing. She has nothing to offer me or persons like me, and is not giving submissive men advice on anything that will lead to being anything other than able to relate to the part of kink that is in her industry.

Things That May Be Unfair

Simone Justice, self touted sex educator, has a whole business in teaching in addition to her pro-work. She makes the claim of being a licensed psychotherapist, although for practical reasons it’s understandable she doesn’t give any of the information about that would make such certification verifiable.

And she seems wisely respected enough if the larger kink world I don’t think her professional domme classes are wasting anyone’s time or money.

Otherwise, her site offers a big pile of class types oriented around fetishes, which- cool. Proper flogger handling is pretty important, etc… I suspect as a trade skill, she knows what she is doing.

But…

I make the gentle accusation that she isn’t as fully qualified to teach as her marketing says, and is playing a weensy bit into a particular market demand for “training” that is actually kink play. Her content is always going to tailor to her clients: and that’s other pros, and guys who are extremely happy replicating (or don’t know the difference) a smaller facet of the ways that you can be kinky.

And she will never, ever, ever claim otherwise because the only problem I see with the generally understood pro-culture is that it maintains itself as The Way Things Work rather than A Way, Due To Certain Factors, Things Can Work.

The Big Blinking Caveat

Hey. So you read with me so far. The problem with these sorts of discussions is that they are intensely personal. Also whore-phobia is a huge problem in the BDSM scene, whether pearl clutching swerfs claiming pro dommes are actually being exploited or misogynists whimpering about profiteering Eves seducing poor dumb horny men. That’s not even touching on reputational damage and a real risk of violence.

This article will probably sink with out a trace into my blog archives, but in the name of personal responsibility, I ask if you think it resonates with you, please, please do not treat professional dommes poorly. Don’t bother poor Simone Justice, who is merely doing her own business her way.

The problem with all being marginalized is that we all tend to fight over whether people deserve the positions they have, when the problem is more a matter of a lack of overall acceptance. This isn’t an either/or highlander scenario where only the best voice may speak- I need you to expand the number of voices existing so nobody has to carry the burden of having to stretch to everyone just because they were brave enough (which she is) to talk.

I also allow that one of the reasons I wrote this is because, I do not think this is punching down. I wrote is believing Simone Justice is a respected enough figure in her own right she can handle some quasi-academic disagreement.

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One thought on “On BDSM Advice that Does Not Work

  1. Joshua Josephs

    I think one way to frame this is that in terms of audience and reach. If you post a tweet like Simone Justice did and hope that it resonates for all submissives and sub domme relationships well good luck it surely does not do that. I think that conditioned on certain assumptions its very good advice. And those assumptions are 1) The sub wants to be closer to a professional dominant 2)Having tangible skills is more useful than offering to be “of service” 3) Offering service is not the intimacy itself but a way to advance intimacy. If one or more of these assumptions dont ring true to someone then its lousy advice.
    The other problem I think revolves around boundaries. To professionals tweets like this help set boundaries, meaning if you will not approach with skills and specific interests, than you are not adding to me, and thus I am uninterested. Of course approaching with a personal partner seeking to build a life long relationship on the basis of a specific skill or set of them is absurd, I would not want anyone to date me just because I am doctor even though that makes me highly skilled in a lot of things.
    And finally, overarching all of this is the concept of power. As much as professional doms will state that their power exchange begins only after negotiating this is just usually not true as there is almost always an entry fee of which this type of advice is one type that is not inherent in the lifestyle community.

Go on, say what you think!