Friday, December 30, 2011


 I went to see a therapist because I was having nightmares and anxiety. Lack of sleep and panicky feelings were interfering with my job, which I used to love. I live in a medium-sized city where there isn't much of a fetish scene. That makes my personal life a little difficult, but it also means there is no competition in the field of professional domination. So I make a very good living, and I can afford to travel to several leather conferences each year and play with all the Beautiful Kinky People. 

This therapist has insisted I talk about material from my past that I really did not plan on discussing with him. I was sexually abused as a girl, yadda yadda yadda. I already dealt with that in previous therapy and no longer feel shitty about myself because somebody who was bigger and older than me had the power to exploit me. But this guy claims that I am in flight from intimacy and feel anxiety because my lifestyle is inherently unstable and unhealthy. Even though I do not have sex with my clients, he tells me that I am trying to use sex to meet my need for closeness. He disregards my lovers because we are not exclusive, and most of our sex play is kinky. I feel that he is urging me to become a monogamous person, and I don't know if that's even possible for me.

Do you think that a dominatrix feels hatred for her clients? Am I punishing submissive men because my father was an incestuous bastard? Granted, there are a few of them I am not fond of, but I don't have to see men who piss me off or disgust me. I am very fond of several of my slaves. We don't just play. They tell me a lot of things about their lives and become quite vulnerable with me. I would like to think that I have made their lives happier. If I was damaging them, wouldn't they stop coming back? I estimate about 85% of my clients book repeated sessions.

There are parts of the job that I don't like. Most clients want to do body worship, and I rarely enjoy that kind of attention. But I can usually find a workable compromise between what he wants and what I feel I can tolerate. Some of them start out being clumsy or inattentive, but they learn and grow if they are properly trained. I dislike clients who want to be dominated and then switch so they can pretend to dominate me. I will only do this type of work if business is slow, and I charge extra for it. My therapist has seized on these things as proof that my job is the major problem in my life.

Meanwhile, my anxiety is getting worse instead of better. He says this is because I am finally coming face-to-face with the fact that my life doesn't work, and I have to make big changes. When I am in the office, I feel persuaded that he cares for me and wants me to be happy. But when I leave the office, I feel depressed and self-doubting. I find I am second-guessing everything. Am I able to love other people, really love them, or is that impossible for a dominatrix? As someone who has been in the scene a lot longer than me, I figure you have run into a situation like this before. What do you think I should do?



I think your therapist should lose his license and be ridden out of town stripped naked, on a railroad tie covered with sandpaper. He has made so many mistakes in your “treatment” that I don't see how he can look at his own reflection without barfing. 

During therapy, the client should be the one who sets the agenda. It is unethical for the therapist to take over. A therapist should be guided by the client's values and priorities. It's okay to ask a client how they feel about certain parts of their lives, but if they don't want to talk about it, that's a boundary that should be respected. I doubt that he would argue with another client's [Christian] religious beliefs as long as they coincided with his own values. Your values deserve the same level of respect. 

Telling someone that they are incapable of love or intimacy is inexcusably heavy-handed. It borders on emotional abuse. He is exploiting his role as an authority figure to pass on the larger culture's distorted picture of BDSM sex and relationships, as well as its hatred of sex workers. These stereotypes are just as harmful as racist notions or sexism or any other form of prejudice. Instead of telling you what your life lacks, he ought to be providing a safe space for you to discuss the issues that you need to explore.

You sound to me like a stable, compassionate, sane person who has chosen a career that she enjoys. Being nonmonogamous is not the same thing as fleeing from intimacy. Open relationships take a lot of trust and maturity. It's the modality I prefer, but I have no business telling my clients they should have open relationships. He is using the therapeutic process as a way to pass on the crap that the larger society is always throwing at people who are different. I really believe that it is important for therapists to examine the many forms of privilege that exist in our world, and seek to undo them. We need to be on the side of the person who is oppressed or pushed to the edge of society. Experiencing bias or discrimination is very stressful for people who are minority members. Blaming them for this very understandable and logical response is crazy-making. The psychiatric professions have a lot of amends to make because of their long history of replicating traditional values instead of taking a more radical stance to support social change, justice, and equality.

Of course there are aspects of your job that you don't like! Everybody feels this way about their job. All of us wind up making compromises when we need to make a living. The fact is that being a professional dominatrix (or submissive), a stripper, a porn actress, or any other type of sex worker is doing a very difficult job. You have found a niche that uses your natural talents, and I am willing to bet that your regular clients have much better lives because you are present for them. 

While it's true that people can have emotional ups and downs while they are in psychotherapy, the symptoms you report do not sound like a normal healing process to me. I recommend that you stop giving this dumb, selfish, and incompetent guy your hard-earned money. There are other mental-health professionals who won't act this way. Find someone who will treat you better.

Nightmares, anxiety, and disturbed sleep are common problems, and there are well-tested methods for treating each of these things. You ought to be evaluated by a sleep clinic and possibly given some medication to help you reverse the vicious cycle of anxiety and insomnia. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has a very good success rate with helping anxious people. There are good techniques you can use to ground yourself, assess your situation, and replace troubling, nervous thoughts with thoughts that are more realistic and serene. There is no reason to dig up your history of sex abuse. You may at some point in your life want to revisit those events, but this should be at a time of your choosing, when it will help you. I believe that you were by being forced to focus on those memories. This gave the therapist an edge over you. You probably would have been able to separate from him long ago if he had not put you through regression to a helpless, younger state of being. 

If you know other community members, ask them for referrals to doctors and therapists that they have screened. Interview a new therapist carefully to make sure they will respect you and your work and allow you to set boundaries and an agenda. Remember that a counselor is like an employee. You are paying him or her for a specific service. If you hired a gardener, you wouldn't let them tell you to plant flowers instead of the lawn that you wanted. You wouldn't let the gardener tell you that you were wrong to want grass instead of a garden, and criticize you for wanting a yard that is low-maintenance. You wouldn't think twice about firing that person and hiring somebody else who would give you what you needed and wanted.

I hope you can find the right person, and I hope they will be skilled and experienced enough to do good work with you. As for this other guy—he needs a reality check. But you are not obligated to explain why you are quitting therapy, nor are you required to educate him. That is his job. Call his answering service or voicemail and leave him a message stating you no longer need his services. If he demands an explanation or tries to argue with you, just treat him like a crank caller and hang up the phone. Take good care of yourself. You provide a highly skilled, valuable service, and many of us are happy to know that you are doing this work. There simply aren't enough tops to go around in the BDSM community. It makes sense for your clients to pay you so you can afford to offer them catharsis in a high-quality, safe dungeon. Good for you!


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