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Dominatrixes and Porn Sites Report a Huge BDSM Uptick Since Trump Became President

Across the country, it seems more people want to get spanked.

Following November's election, wide swaths of the country were overtaken with fear, deeply worried that President Donald Trump would make good on his controversial campaign promises. Of course, there's no better way to shake yourself out of a political panic attack than a lively BDSM session. According to dominatrixes and others in the sex-work industry, a strong uptick in interest following the election might suggest that many Americans are giving kink a try to get over the reality that Trump's in the White House.

"It was really intense the week of the election," said New York–based dominatrix Sandra LaMorgese. "I was getting requests from people I had never met, and my regular clients were asking for more intense sessions. They were pushing past their boundaries in a very big way." LaMorgese first entered the industry in 2011, after losing her business following the 2008 market crash. She now specializes in BDSM role-play and corporal punishment, but she said that milder forms of the latter are no longer passing muster among certain clients since Trump was elected. They want her to go harder. They want her to draw blood. And she does.

Dominatrix Sandra LaMorgese with a client. Photo courtesy of Sandra LaMorgese

On January 10, an unverified document surfaced accusing President Trump of having his own kinks—it alleged he had once hired prostitutes to urinate on a hotel bed. On January 11, PornHub reported a 289 percent increase in searches containing the phrase "golden shower" (link NSFW) compared to its usual daily average. While a president's influence on American culture and politics has always been an obvious and inherent part of the job, it's possible our current president may be having an unintended effect on American sex, too.

"Something has been going on since the Trump election," said LaMorgese. "It's like these guys are in shock. They're using sessions as a way to wake up."

Veteran adult-film director Colin Rowntree has seen a similar shift unfolding on the website he founded in 1994, Wasteland.com—a large BDSM, bondage, and fetish porn website. Since the election, he said the site has experienced a significant increase in views and requests for harder impact play. "Ball-busting," "face slapping," and "trampling" have all made their way into the top most-searched terms. Viewers have also begun to favor videos having to do with "slave training" and "psychological games" over some of the site's more traditional content.

"All strange, but true," said Rowntree. "I can't be sure how much of this is connected to our new president changing the 'power paradigm' in America, but it's interesting to watch the shift in sexual desires and kinky needs and tastes."

Mistress Tiffany is a dominatrix who has served the Washington, DC, market over the past three years. She said she also experienced a boom in business after the election. "I'm getting a lot of younger guys. Guys under 30," she noted. "A lot of them have never seen a dominatrix before." While she said it's possible that Trump's inauguration sparked a need for her services, she has another suspicion as to what's been keeping her so busy these days.

Mistress Tiffany. Photo courtesy Mistress Tiffany

On January 9, just 11 days before the inauguration, Backpage, the world's second-largest classified-advertising website, removed its adult services ads following a Senate investigation alleging the site's operators willfully enabled sex trafficking. The move left an entire national network of dommes without a means to advertise their services. Those like Mistress Tiffany, who have personal websites with prominent Google placement, were able to inherit a number of clients otherwise lost in transition.  

But while the Backpage disruption has impacted access to sex workers across the country, Michael Stabile, a spokesperson for porn distributor Kink.com, noted other reasons for a surge in BDSM interest in the nation's capital specifically. "Power struggles and domination and submission are built into the DNA of the city," Stabile said. "There are strict hierarchies of power, complete with honorifics and arcane rules and public punishments." According to Stabile, subscriptions to Kink.com within the Washington, DC, area have grown by over 58 percent in the past two years. Today, DC is the website's third-largest source of traffic on a per-capita basis, meaning the city could have one of the highest BDSM-porn consumption rates in the country.

For Mistress Iris, a professional dominatrix who has been working in Los Angeles for the past three years, business has also been good. Before the election, she said she experienced a slow period in her bookings, but in the weeks that followed, she more than made up for that loss—and not just with her average clients, middle-aged men of means, either. Like Tiffany, she said she experienced an influx of young men looking to experiment for the first time. She also saw an uptick in requests from an even unlikelier demographic: women.

"I usually get around one to three female clients a year. Since the election, I've been getting at least four a month," she said. "My theory is that this is some form of personal protest, in a way. To be able to take agency over your own body and sexuality at a time when the world seems like it's going backwards, especially for women."

New York–based sex therapist Dr. Michael Aaron agreed with that theory, but he also notes that "there are a number of reasons why people do the things they do." It's hard to dissect what exactly a surge in interest of alternative sexual expression could mean, politically. But Aaron notes one common denominator worth mentioning: "I've never, in recent years, heard the word 'Nazi' used so often," he said. "You turn on the news, you see stuff about Nazis getting punched. It's all over the place.

"There is a history of this kind of imagery being sexualized," he continued. "If someone is already interested in power play or being a sub, they can take that existing imagery and adopt it to whatever their existing proclivities are."

In a lot of ways, what's unfolding in politics isn't far off from what's taking place in BDSM dungeons across America. Power is deployed and flexed, and a bunch of new politicians are being forced to submit in a way they haven't since George W. Bush was in office. It's tempting to say we owe Trump a nod for encouraging others to join the party, but that might be giving him too much credit for a very good thing.

Follow Carrie Weisman on Twitter.