At the 14th annual Domination Convention, a gaggle of latex-swaddled dominatrixes—professional and lifestyle—gathered for their annual tea party at the Hilton hotel in Los Angeles. These are women who specialize in breaking and humiliating men, each with own their own niche that comes with a unique set of rules and etiquette. Some do "sissy" work, where they make their slaves and submissives cross-dress in trashy, cheap dresses and parade them in around a dungeon for laughs and taunting ass slaps. Others work in "sensations" with whips, riding crops, paddles, and urethral sounding rods. While men pay to lick these women's boots and take out loans to afford skin-lacerating torture sessions, some still manage to step out of line and create the same sort of exasperating frustration that anyone who deals in service work can relate to.
"It's really the manners—or lack of manners—that gets to me," says Queen Ivy, a professional dominatrix based in Toronto who specializes in medical play and needle work. "There's a lot of entitlement because men who pay to play think they can get everything they want right away. They'll interrupt me during a session and try to rush me into getting right into their main kink instead of letting me do my thing."
Miss Freudian Slit, who specializes in humiliation and objectifying her clients—by making them serve as chairs or footstools for her to lounge on, for example— says, "Men will sometimes ask for things we didn't pre-negotiate. They claim to be slaves, submissives, or bottoms, but they refuse to check their ego at the door. They've hired me for my expertise and my ability to control and withhold pleasure, but they secretly want to run the show. They get mad because they couldn't have their fantasy 100 percent perfectly done."
"I am very specific about my instructions," says Mistress Emily. "If I have sub who says he wants to buy me chocolates, I will tell him, 'OK, but no fruits and nuts in the chocolate.' Then I get a a box of fruity, nutty chocolates. Look, you can ask me questions, I'll gladly repeat myself, but I want you to listen, I'm being explicit with you about what I want."
"For me, its about consistency," says Mistress Fiona, a 28-year-old dominatrix from Phoenix. "If you're going to go above and beyond on a certain task, include all the bells and whistles, then I'm going to expect that every time. I've found over the years of doing domination that lack of consistency is the tell-tale sign of some one's respect for you; it's a sign of how they are feeling about you. What do they give you every time? I like someone to never have a vulgar feeling about me, and when they do, it shows"
"I get messages on FetLife [a social networking site for BDSM fetishists] from submissives who want to go in-depth, describing all their pathetic bullshit fantasies to me," complains Lydia Faithfull, a full-time dominatrix and sex worker (and Broadly advice columnist) who works in a legal brothel in Nevada. "When it's time to come to [exchange] money, they ghost." Faithfull says that brand new dominatrixes are often cajoled into doing free work through sexting and that they get taken advantage of by greedy slaves. The worst is when a submissive mistakes her for a lifestyle dominatrix, Faithful groans. Lifestylers are those in the BDSM who play master and servant for the pure joy of it, not for money. "They think I get off on the sycophantic submission," says Faithfull, "when, in fact, I'm repulsed by it."
Another woman, who is a lifestyler and full-time dominant in her marriage—we'll call her Mistress Abby—says that whenever her submissive husband uses a phone when they are out together, she puts an immediate end to it. "He needs to be present, with all his focus and attention on me. He almost never breaks that rule because I get so angry about it. When I see other couples at restaurant and one of them is on their phone while the other is sitting there in silence, you know something is wrong in that relationship."