Fantasy or felon-to-be?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Question

I have been working as a dominatrix for about a year. A few months ago, I did a session as a submissive with this guy. It started out fairly typically until he was spanking me and made a comment about wishing I was six years old. Then he tried to get me to say "Daddy, I love you," and made some other very explicit, really disgusting remarks about stuff he would do to me if I were a prepubescent girl and not a woman approaching 30. I was not accommodating to his requests, partially because it nauseated me and partially because of the legal implications.

He was the first client who ever said scary shit like that and it definitely didn't come off as harmless role-playing drama. When he left, I told my boss and she freaked out, but we couldn't decide what to do. If we reported him and we were wrong, we would be screwing up his life for no reason and getting our clean, classy, no-sex dungeon the wrong kind of publicity. No to mention, how could we prove he was saying the stuff? It all just seemed really dubious.

Can you tell me more about what I should do if that situation arises again? For my own sake in a legal sense and for the sake of whatever little kids he might be molesting? Also, in the eyes of the law, is there a difference between "adult baby" clients and a dude who wants me to pretend I'm a child who he, in turn, is pretending to rape? I could never do the latter scenario for any amount of money but the whole adult baby thing - is that something I should also avoid if the request is made?

— M.E.

Answer

My basic advice is to never do anything in the context of sex work that you are uncomfortable with. BDSM is serious business and to do your job well and remain emotionally healthy, you must have clear boundaries - ones that should be negotiated in advance of a scene, especially if it is profoundly challenging. This man, even if he does only indulge his proclivities with adult women, showed some serious disrespect springing this intense shit on you without warning. For that alone, you should not see him again.

Since you are also asking about your legal status, my attorney suggests I tell you that my column should not be read as legal advice and that you yourself should consult a lawyer independently. With that as my disclaimer, there are two elements that make up the criminal act: the mens rea (the guilty mind, or subjective element) and the actus reus (the guilty act, or objective element).

"I can't see role-playing with an adult in this scenario being a criminal act," says my attorney. "The mental element is arguably present, just as it is in garden variety 'I'm going to kill that bastard' thoughts." In your situation, there is only evidence of proclivity, not activity. "Things get dicier if the man indicated that he was going to find a girl and do what he did with you," says my attorney, "or if he made it known that he has children and it's clear or clearer that they are at risk of being subjected to this behaviour."

As my attorney indicates, "there is no general obligation to report on our fellow citizens' sexual or political leanings, but when it comes to children, there is a well-meaning hysteria at protecting the most vulnerable members of society. If she volunteers to contact the authorities, she will probably be asked to testify if charges are laid. There is no confidentiality/privilege in the sub/dom relationship, just as there is none in the confessor/priest relationship."

Criminal law attorney Alan Young elaborates: "Legally, the only people who have obligations to report suspected abuse are people in the healthcare professions or people who have contact with children, like teachers, so this dominatrix would not have a legal duty to report it.

Obviously if you believe that someone might be a pedophile, your social conscience would suggest to you that you should call. The danger is the Wanda Young danger [read about this case here: www.injusticebusters.com/04/Young_Wanda.shtml]. It's not always that easy to draw a clean, discernible line between fantasy and reality and especially because a BDSM session is predicated on fantasy. It might be very dangerous to draw an inference from a fantasy that someone is a social leper. Someone who goes into a session and wants to play the child game, that actually may be the outlet that's preventing them from crossing the line."

Young says he'd be very hesitant to call the police. "[Pedophilia] is the mark of Cain, there's no worse allegation to make against a person and that's why you have to have something more than an intuitive hunch. If someone's just acting out and asking you to dress a certain way and say certain things, that's the whole point of recreational fantasy. You're supposed to be allowed to do things that are transgressions in normal life."

As for the adult baby scenario, my attorney says, it "shows an even more tenuous link to child-porn proclivity," so no worries there.

If your boss is concerned about her dungeon being slapped with an obscenity lawsuit, Young says, "The law of obscenity only applies to public exhibition. You can be as obscene as you want behind closed doors. There is the possibility that they can call this prostitution to classify the location as a bawdyhouse or they can say "we're not going to bother with prostitution, it's still against the law to have a bawdyhouse for the purpose of indecency and we have to determine whether this role-playing of prepubescent girls is indecent." I don't think there's a court in the world that wouldn't call it indecent, so I guess there's some risk, but there's no risk in catering to a client on one occasion [and] realizing that it is not the type of fantasy you want to cater to and not seeing them. There would have to be some repetitive behaviour to attract the attention of the law."

M.E., I also want you to go to Debbie Nathan's website at www.debbienathan.com and read everything she's written on child pornography and pedophilia. Nathan is an award-winning journalist who lends a measured voice to this sensitive topic and can also be heard in conversation with Susie Bright at http://tinyurl.com/c5p336 and http://tinyurl.com/c93dwh discussing sex panics. You can also read a transcript of this at http://tinyurl.com/39p8wd.