Dungeons and Doms

Dungeons are popping up everywhere in New York. That familiar buzz sounded just recently, and I pushed the door and walked up the stairs. The nondescript Manhattan apartment building was like a thousand I have walked into, one where any of my friends could live. A door opened at the first landing. When I went inside, there was the evidence in front of me. Not the gorgeous she-must-be-a-pro-dom presence of the redhead who greeted me (although she definitely had it), but the telltale soundproofing on the other side of the door and the color of the walls—dark violet. The place reminded me of the first dungeon I visited, Pandora's Box (www.punishmentsquare.com/ pandorasbox/index.html), now practically a New York institution; I went there to have a session with a dominatrix, then write about it, for a lesbian magazine. Yeah, my job sucks, I know. But this dungeon is different from Pandora's because it is not commercially advertised. It's a private space used by a few dominatrices, including my hostess, Dakota.

Dakota—she of the luxurious, fiery hair, slim, corset-ready waist, and voluptuous, perfectly shaped breasts (still dying to know if she was born with them)—showed me to a big room, where I sat down on a black leather couch.

"You're the first one here," she said, meaning that her friend Maria Beatty had yet to appear. I was there to interview both of them about a new erotic film called Seven Deadly Sins, which stars Dakota and is directed and produced by Beatty. Since 1994, Beatty has written, directed, produced, and starred in 11 lesbian s/m and fetish videos, all financed and distributed by her company Bleu Productions (www.bleuproductions.com). Among the most popular titles are her debut The Elegant Spanking, The Black Glove, and Les Vampyres: Ladies of the Night. This year marks her, um, entry into new territory: the depiction of penetration and bondage simultaneously. While portrayed separately in hundreds of flicks, this combo is a huge no-no in the world of adult video: It'll get you seized at the Canadian border and may land you in court for obscenity. But George W. Bush and John Ashcroft be damned; Maria Beatty was determined to restrain and show no restraint, so she did it in Seven Deadly Sins.

With short, stylish platinum blond hair and large, expressive eyes, Beatty arrived for the interview looking like a 1920s flapper, which perfectly matches her unique porn aesthetic. Beatty makes porno into fetshistic film noir; imagine a kinky Louise Brooks, a sadistic Marlene Dietrich (who's the top?), and some nipple clamps and hot wax, and you're beginning to get the idea. Beatty opted out of acting in this one, but was more than happy to dress up for a photo shoot with her starlet Dakota, who wore a Chinese silk corset, garter belt and stockings, and part of her costume from the movie: a long, decadent robe trimmed with red feathers. The look they captured together was part Vegas showgirl, part old-fashioned bordello (fitting since Dakota later told me that the building was a brothel in its former life).

The space, however, didn't exactly remind me of a whorehouse, mainly because it was preoccupied with a fetish I hadn't witnessed before. It wasn't bestiality or zoophilia. (The difference? Zoophiles form not only sexual relationships, but emotional and romantic relationships, with animals, and most zoophiles are actually monogamous. Zoophiles feel unfairly lumped into the same category as folks into bestiality, who don't exactly have a sterling rep.)

The person who decorated this room had a taxidermy fetish; I was surrounded by dozens of stuffed animals: a wild boar, goats, several felines, a large turtle, an enormous peacock, a beaver sitting up on its legs on the side table. (Dakota later informed me that they all belonged to her dominatrix partner: "She's a collector.")

It occurred to me that the taxidermy could set one apart from all the other doms and dungeons in the city. Competition must be fierce since whip-toting mistresses seem to pop up everywhere I go, making me often ask myself, These days, who isn't a pro-dom? I'll tell you who isn't: Maria Beatty. Oh, Beatty is in the BDSM business, all right—what do you think pays for all her porn creations?—but she works it from the other end: She's a professional submissive. Instead of tying people up, making them beg for mercy, or spanking them with a wooden spoon, she's the one on the bondage rack bent over with a sore bum. She sometimes gets paid to be a bad little girl.

Surprisingly, Beatty has no discernible ambivalence about her job; she loves it and defends it, and not for the reasons I assumed. See, I was expecting she'd say something like "It's work to me. That's why it's called sex work. Whether I've got the flogger in my hand or across my back, I am providing a service to people." Au contraire. She is a submissive in real life and on the job, and rarely makes a distinction between the two worlds. She does it because she gets off on it.

There are others in Beatty's line of work, although they aren't as vocal a group as their dom counterparts. Doms these days are happily admitting their chosen profession in print—check out the sales of Sex Tips From a Dominatrix, I Was a Teenage Dominatrix, and Mistress Ruby Ties It Together: A Dominatrix Takes On Sex, Power, and the Secret Lives of Upstanding Citizens. But the world of playing bottom for cash is veiled in secrecy. Beatty attributes the silence to women's own shame about erotic submission. As a feminist, self-respecting woman, it's OK to say, "I push guys around for a living," but not OK to be pushed around. Even dominatrices can have double standards.

Political correctness aside, I had to ask Beatty: Is it safe? As the top, I'd feel like I was in control of the scene, like I was calling the shots with a client, but as the bottom, I'd feel like things might go awry more often, and like my boundaries, emotional and physical, could be trampled. Beatty says she feels fully in control of her pro-sub sessions, and she has never had to stop one because something was happening that wasn't planned. It's like when she used to act in her movies and also direct them: "There I was, tied down with a ball gag in my mouth, but there was no doubt in my mind that I was in charge." Somehow she made that image make sense. Now that Bleu Productions is in full swing, she has cut back her sub work (from six sessions a day to about three a week).

"I only see regular, established clients; I don't take on anyone new. Oh, except I would take on a new female client," she said as she winked at me.

Ladies, get out your checkbooks!

Visit my Web site at www.puckerup.com.

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