HUFFPOST PERSONAL

I Worked As A Dominatrix For Over 5 Years. Here's What It's Really Like.

I thought I’d be a dominatrix for a couple of weeks, then go on to make a documentary. If someone had told me the 10-mi
I thought I’d be a dominatrix for a couple of weeks, then go on to make a documentary. If someone had told me the 10-minute interview would instead change my life forever, I would have laughed at them.

A few years ago, at 34, I found myself being interviewed for the position of a dominatrix at a prominent New York City BDSM dungeon. I lied during that interview. A lot.

There was no way I’d reveal that I was there because I wanted to make a documentary about the women and men inhabiting the fascinating underground world of BDSM. For the record, we were not underground; we were on the second floor of an office building in midtown Manhattan ― a very convenient location for guys to come in for a quick domination session first thing in the morning, during their lunch breaks or right after work.

My brilliant master plan was to get access to the women who work as dominatrixes and their clients and learn about the everyday business of running a reputable BDSM dungeon (a legal business in New York state). I thought I’d do this job for a couple of weeks, then go on to make my documentary, which would premiere at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival and make me the toast of the town.

If someone had told me this 10-minute interview would instead change my life forever, I would have laughed at them.

I still remember how fast my heart was beating as I rang the bell and waited for the manager, a woman in her 50s, to open the door and let me in.

As I entered the space, I stopped to look around. The “dungeon” was an office just like any other office I had ever been to or worked in. Up to that point in my life, I had held about 15 different jobs including sales, working the register at a bakery, being a secretary at a PR firm and a few waitress gigs while I studied to be an actress. I had fully prepared myself to walk into a room with chains, whips and all sorts of torture devices, but there I was in an ordinary waiting room with cheap art hanging on its walls, a tiny locker room and a coffee machine.

The manager held my New York state ID in her hands and asked me about my accent, my height and my shoe size. Less than 10 minutes into the interview, I was offered a job and asked to pick a dominatrix name for myself.

Three days after that interview, I began transforming from Stavroula to Mistress Kassandra — much easier to remember and pronounce, right? My alter ego gave me permission to wear fierce red lipstick, high heels and clothes that made me feel like a million bucks ― from leather pencil skirts and corsets to vinyl dresses and catsuits, expensive nun and nurse costumes, even turtlenecks and tuxedo pants that covered my body completely and left everything to the imagination. The communal closet at my new job was like the FAO Schwarz of BDSM and I was in heaven!

Riding crop used in pony training session: The clients would pretend they are young ponies in training.
Riding crop used in pony training session: The clients would pretend they are young ponies in training.

More importantly, I felt in total control of my body. Mistress Kassandra was powerful, unapologetic, vicious, sweet, innocent, dirty. When I was her, I could be anything I wanted to be and didn’t have to explain myself to anyone. Not only that, but this newfound power and confidence in myself was celebrated, respected and very well-compensated.

What documentary? I was hooked on being a dominatrix and there was no going back.  

One of the first things I learned at my new job was that men of all ages, social classes, and religious and ethnic backgrounds found the dungeon to be the only place they felt safe enough to take off their mask, remove their armor and reveal their vulnerabilities, traumas and pain, in an effort to heal and become better men. The surrender of their minds and souls was, and still is, one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed in my life. And it was all happening at the hands of powerful women.

When we hear the word “dominatrix,” we tend to think of men being tortured by thin, beautiful white women with dark hair, dressed top to bottom in leather. Here’s the truth: The women at my new job came in all shapes, sizes, skin colors, ethnicities and ages. They were married, single, had children, went to school to get their master’s, etc.

Some of them were honest with their families about the work they did; most of them kept it a secret since people’s ignorance usually leads to judgment. Every single one of these women was spectacular in her own way and I realized soon enough that I was going to learn a lot from them. I was, and still am, in awe of any woman who does this job and knows how to do it well. 

Loved wearing this catsuit! I bought it with my second paycheck so I didn't have to wear the ones the other dominatrixes used
Loved wearing this catsuit! I bought it with my second paycheck so I didn't have to wear the ones the other dominatrixes used.

Working at the dungeon was very much like any other job when it came to scheduling, showing up on time, signing off at the end of the day, keeping the space clean, treating the clients and co-workers with respect, hanging out in the break room when it wasn’t busy, etc.

We worked eight-hour shifts but we only made money when we booked a session. When a client booked one of us for a one-hour domination, the house would get $240 and the dominatrix would get $80 out of that plus whatever the client tipped, if he tipped at all. We had clients who would come in for a quick half-hour session ― the rate for that was $150 and the dominatrix would get $50. The manager would keep track of all the sessions and we got paid every Friday morning.

Making $80 in one hour or even $50 in 30 minutes was great for me, but for the women who had to pay their mortgages, kids’ tuitions or student loans, this money wasn’t enough. There were times when we had close to 20 dominatrixes working the same shift and most of them never really made any money. Some chose to stick around and see if something would change; others quit after a week or two. Then we had the ones who’d show up for a shift even on their days off because they had nothing better to do. The dungeon had become their comfort zone and something like a second family.

Privacy is the No. 1 priority when it comes to this job. I have yet to meet the man who is confident enough to admit that he sees a dominatrix. We also had some pretty powerful and well-known men who would frequent the dungeon for a good punishment session. So the doorbell had a legit company’s name written on it, and the manager on duty was the only person buzzing people in, checking the cameras and welcoming them at the main door. The rest of us knew to stay put and not exit whatever room we were in till the client was sitting nervously behind the closed door of an available room.

Some of the clients would call in advance to book their dominatrix, but others wanted to meet the new girls. I felt the most nervous as I was walking down the hallway and heading into the room; I never knew who was waiting to meet Mistress Kassandra behind that door ― and what if it happened to be someone I knew? Once I saw that it was a complete stranger, I was relieved and very interested to get to know them.

This was a classic confession session. The men would stand in front of me and confess all their sins and wrongdoings, and ask
This was a classic confession session. The men would stand in front of me and confess all their sins and wrongdoings, and ask for forgiveness.

I always let them know that they could tell me anything they were feeling in the moment and I would listen and help them without judging them. Men are full of feelings, insecurities and sensitivities. And that’s OK. A big kudos to the men who are brave enough to deal with their own shit, even if that is inside the four walls of a dungeon!

In between sessions, I’d ask the other dominatrixes to show me how to use the electric chair and the humiliator, how to crack the whip or work the pizzle, how to set the tone for the session, how to do piercings (yikes at first, but then I loved it!), how to spank the right way and how to make these fancy knots you see in bondage-related images — single column tie, double column tie, zip snare!

I wanted to play with every toy and experience every type of play allowed while keeping in mind that safety and consent are the two most important things when it comes to being a great dominatrix.

Most of my clients were smart, kind, respectful, vulnerable, decent men looking for an experience they couldn’t have with their “other half.” Many of them were single men and, I have to admit, there were a couple of guys I fantasized about meeting outside of work.

Of those who were married, the majority didn’t see their visit to the dungeon as cheating since there is no actual sex involved. Still, this job is sexual by nature. Some clients would reach orgasm through masturbation at the end of the session but only after asking my permission to do so. At the same time, many men chose another type of release: speaking about their emotions without censoring themselves, crying or asking to be hugged. If they wanted a hug, or to kiss your hands and feet to show you their gratitude, they had to ask for permission to do so.

Some of the more popular sessions involved bondage and discipline (plenty of men need to be tied up in order to connect with their emotions and let it all out), brain fade (any type of psychological play that keeps the male in a submissive state), CBT (cock and ball torture), corporal punishment (caning, flogging, paddling), cross-dressing (so many men want to act and dress like women!), foot worship and/or worship of the feminine divine, animal play (some men identify with dogs and ponies and love being trained and treated like them), asphyxiation using gas masks, mummification (using a body bag or plastic wrap) and one of my most favorite ones ... complete surrender. These men are sick and tired of being in charge, but they can’t be anybody else in the outside world because they’d stand to lose everything. So, for one or two hours every week they’d come to me and surrender their egos, their pride, their bullshit, their beliefs and their wearable wealth from their Rolex watch to their Gucci leather loafers.

Getting creative and putting M&Ms on the floor as a reward while teaching the puppy how to get into the cage. 
Getting creative and putting M&Ms on the floor as a reward while teaching the puppy how to get into the cage. 

Seven out of 10 times they’d cry by the end of the session and, for me, that was when they were the most manly. I also loved this type of play because it taught me to trust my gut again, something I did as a little kid but was taken from me as I grew older and was conditioned to second-guess myself.

Inside the dark rooms of a BDSM dungeon, where all the noise is shut out, I’d get to silence the noise in my head. I’d forget about the clock ticking, the things people expected of me and all my obligations. I’d put away my phone, just like my clients did the second they walked into the room. I learned to be present in the moment where the only thing that mattered was the freedom to express myself and connect from an authentic place to the other person in the room.

And, for the first time in many, many years, I was listened to without being interrupted, without any objections and with genuine interest from my clients who wanted to know what I wanted, what I thought and why. I raised my voice and it was OK to do so. I released my anger and frustrations and guess what? Nothing. Terrible. Happened.  

Here I was, a 34-year-old woman who was rediscovering herself and healing the wounds she never knew she had, all while making close to $2,000 a week; many of my clients were very generous when it came to tipping for helping them experience something new and reach a whole other level of consciousness.

Meanwhile, they were the ones helping me.

At the end of my second week at work, I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed something different about me. I stood taller. I felt in control. I realized that I had started walking more slowly, apologizing less, breathing easier, sleeping better and smiling only when I truly felt like it.

The men I dominated helped me tap into my power source by simply reminding me that I had every right to do so. Hearing this day in and day out worked miracles on me.

I loved this dress and this photo got a lot of attention on the dungeon's site since all the other dommes always posed i
I loved this dress and this photo got a lot of attention on the dungeon's site since all the other dommes always posed in black clothes. 

My two weeks at the dungeon turned into two months, and then I went on to work as an independent dominatrix for a little over five years. Working as an independent dominatrix is a whole other ball game and it comes with many dangers and risks. It made me wiser and taught me how to protect myself.

I never made my documentary, but I am currently developing a reality series and writing a nonfiction book about my experiences.

As an actress, writer and director, I felt a tremendous need to share my story in my own terms in hopes that it would help people realize that we are all broken one way or another, and that we all have the same desires and needs — starting with the need to connect and to be accepted for who we truly are.

So I created a scripted series called “SWITCH,” along with an incredible team of professionals, with the ultimate goal to stay true to the story and tell it from a woman’s perspective. SWITCH follows a group of dominatrixes and their clients as they lead double lives and struggle for power, identity, love, family and ambition.

A poster for SWITCH.
A poster for SWITCH.

A couple of months ago, I realized I simply can’t keep up being a part-time dominatrix and a full-time writer, director and actor so I hung up my whip and paddles and gave away most of my clothes. I am still making time to meet with certain men, women and couples who need my help on a one-on-one basis. Doing this gives me great joy and it’s something I hope to continue doing for years to come.

Working as a dominatrix taught me how to have compassion and love myself unconditionally, to walk away from situations or people when they don’t value me, to stop waiting for permission to create the life I’ve always wanted. It taught me to go after everything I want fearlessly, because I have every right to do so. And here’s a little secret: so do you.

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