This article originally appeared on VICE Canada
Sadist Faction*'s coffee table is innocuous at first glance, but it's actually one of the most provocative pieces of home furnishing you're likely to ever see. That's because, unlike the generic stuff found in your average furniture outlet, this coffee table is also great for flogging, spanking, and general bondage fun.
These are things the only male, heterosexual professional dominatrix in Montreal needs to consider when he's entertaining company.
The restraints built into the table can be stowed away when more vanilla company is over, as can the whips and other toys on display in the retired teacher's apartment/dungeon. When Faction's non-kinky friends are present, the only hint of sadomasochism is the Montreal Expos baseball team memorabilia – a constant reminder of the torture Major League Baseball's put the team's fans through.
After first discovering his taste for kink at the age of 12 in the pre-internet 1970s, Faction found kindred spirits through an ad in a swinger's magazine. Guys would get in touch to trade porn tapes; women would write hoping to get a spanking. In the 80s and 90s, he witnessed Montreal's kink scene come into its own as the taboo around BDSM began to lighten.
As more people got involved, though, the need for safe practices and awareness of how consent intertwines with domination also became more important.
"A few years ago, I started hearing these stories of women who wanted to get spanked or tied up but didn't want to have sex. They were placing ads on Craigslist or something like that. And the first thing someone would do is they would tie them up, and they would [want to] fuck them, which is not what they wanted. So I decided to see if there was a market for women to pay for domination services."
It turns out that there is a market. Faction charges about £30 [$50 CAD] an hour for teaching services, where he teaches couples how to safely indulge in BDSM sex. When it comes to actual domination, usually in the form of spanking, he accepts whatever someone is willing to pay. (He's also got some diversity in his portfolio in that he charges to rent out his dungeon to couples or for parties.)
"I don't make very much money," Faction admits. "The women [doms] make money at this. Guys have no qualms about paying a hundred dollars for a handjob or a blowjob or whatever. Girls, on the other hand, feel they don't have to pay for anything and are more likely to go to Craigslist. Women feel very uncomfortable paying for it. Maybe they're entitled or embarrassed, I really don't know."
Faction's history as a high school teacher means he prefers to keep his real name out of articles, though he doesn't mind being photographed (say what you will about 50 Shades, but it's definitely taken a lot of the taboo out of owning your own set of restraints). His retirement also means he has the financial freedom to carve out his niche, something that has kept would-be rivals from getting their own enterprises off the ground.
"I think what happens is, people start out, especially men, they have the skills, they want to do the job, they're looking for clients, and they just [can't] get enough to sustain themselves," said fellow Quebec professional dominatrix Contessa Alura. "Where I think with Sadist Faction, he's not doing this as a full-time job. He can do it a lot longer."
Still, being a dom has become a way to make a few bucks and also stay in touch with his teaching roots. A chunk of his clients come to Faction not necessarily to be dominated, but to learn how to do this stuff safely at home.
"I would sit down with the couple and find out which one is dominant and which one is submissive," he says. "I'll find out what their fantasies and fetishes are, and I'll show them the proper way to tie someone up."
Helpful hints include not using handcuffs ("A lot of people think you wear handcuffs as part of our kink, but we rarely use handcuffs because they hurt like hell," he explains), and going very slowly if you're going to do anal play.
Speaking of butts, that's the body part his other female clients usually like to focus on: For the past five years, Faction has offered what he calls "spanking therapy." It's a key difference between what guys seek out when hiring a dominatrix and what women are looking for.
"Guys are definitely much more into humiliation play and strap-ons," says Faction. "When you look up female domination, you'll see millions and millions of pages and they all have a specialty like cross-dressing or suspension.
"Not that my female play partners aren't into that stuff as well, but when I do it on a professional basis, the girls are basically interested in being spanked because they're relatively new at it or want to be tied up and given forced orgasms or masturbated without any penetration."
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Alura says there's some interesting gender politics at play in that he thinks many women are just looking to let go of their regular life.
"I feel like if you take away these roles, at the very core, we have desires that are primal," said Alura. "It doesn't matter who enjoys what, there are these sort of baseline things people like based on society or things they've been through as children, all these other things. I feel like women are looking for simple pleasure, and it's the same pleasure that men would get being dominated by a woman. It's letting go... having someone else lead them and give them the intensity that takes them away from their everyday world and brings them into a fantasy."
No matter your chromosomes, that letting go is key, even if what you're letting go is the stress of taking the kids to soccer practice. What Faction is uniquely able to create is an environment where letting go still feels safe.
Katheros, a romantic interest of Faction's for the past few years, is a woman uniquely qualified to quantify why Faction is able to give his clients what they're looking for. After all, she's seen him at his best and at his worst—make of that what you will.
"There's a line on his website that I remember when I wasn't sure about meeting up with him that says something like 'I take aftercare to a level that a Jewish mother would appreciate,' which made me laugh," she says. "That's kind of what he has that makes him different. I've been around the Montreal BDSM scene for a while, and you don't meet a lot of men who are interested in being dominant who are interested in being very tender with someone."
As for Faction's theory on what women get out of his services, it's that he believes we are all under serious amounts of pressure on any given day—and it doesn't matter if you're a businesswoman making decisions that affect thousands of people's employment or a parent who needs to pacify a screaming three-year-old—we all need a release.
"I know a lot of businessmen who make a lot of money or are in charge of making financial decisions during the day. They're going to hire a professional dominatrix because for that hour, they want to lose control," he says. "In general, women, if they're a mother of a child, they're dominant, so again, they want to let go. Even high, corporate females, same thing. When I see them at our parties, they're submissive, and I think for a few hours, they just want to let their guard down."
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*Name has been changed.