Gearing Up: Professional Domination Comes With a Price

Alex Henderson

Whenever one undertakes a new business venture, it is important to conduct a serious cost/benefit analysis and try to determine what the overhead will be compared to the potential profits. And that includes professional domination, which can be a very profitable part of the adult entertainment industry but can also have a high overhead —especially if a dominatrix takes pride in operating a well-equipped dungeon that appeals to a wide range of kinky tastes.

With public awareness of BDSM having increased substantially, professional domination has become increasingly competitive. But the overhead that goes into operating a quality dungeon certainly hasn’t decreased. Between BDSM furniture (spanking benches, whipping posts, pillories, a St. Andrews cross), instruments of discipline (whips, paddles, riding crops, canes, nipple clamps), bondage devices (leather restraints, metal police handcuffs, leg irons, rope, ball-gags, penis-gags, blindfolds), fetish attire (corsets, cat suits, thigh-high stiletto domination boots, over-the-elbow opera gloves) and rent, operating a well-equipped dungeon can easily cost thousands of dollars.

Someone who’s really into fetishes can tell the difference between a woman who buys a $20 tube top and a pair of boots, puts an ad on Craigslist, picks up a riding crop and calls herself a domina and a woman who has spent a lot of time and money developing her wardrobe and developing a dungeon. -Bella Vendetta

Veronica Bound, a Philadelphia-based pro-domme/fetish model, noted, “Every bondage piece of equipment — frames, beds, spanking bench, etc. — will cost hundreds each. Then you need gear: floggers, paddles, rope, canes, CBT toys, vibrators, dildos, cross dresser’s clothes, adult baby clothes. None of these things last forever, and they have to be replaced over time.”

With fetish attire having evolved and diversified so much over the years, pro-dommes typically receive a wide variety of clothing requests. “The way I feel about fetish attire is: spend whatever you want, but you will never satisfy everyone,” Bound noted. “So find a style you like, and it will attract clients that like it too. If they’re really crazy about seeing you in a latex cat suit, they’ll buy you one.”

Some pro-dommes wear a variety of leather and latex, while others prefer to stick to one or the other. Massachusetts-based pro-domme/fetish model Bella Vendetta, for example, has an extensive leather wardrobe and avoids latex (which she is allergic to). And a leather fetishist who is into something esoteric might end up adding to her wardrobe. Vendetta explained, “If a client comes to me and says, ‘I have a fetish for purple leather boots’ and I don’t happen to have them, I’m not going to go out and spend $500 on a pair of purple leather boots and make $300 for a session with this one person. They can go out and buy those purple leather boots, and I will add them to my collection.”

One of the most important pieces of advice that porn companies hear when they get started is that they should hire a skillful attorney who knows a lot about the adult industry — and Vendetta stressed that smart legal representation is crucial for pro-dommes as well. “You have to have a good lawyer if you want to run a dungeon space and not risk being arrested or having any other type of legal ramification, and lawyers are very expensive,” Vendetta asserted. “Any time someone comes to me and says, ‘I want to get into the sex industry,’ I tell them two things: get a lawyer and get a really good CPA or tax person. If you don’t have a good lawyer and a good tax person, you’re stumbling around in the dark.”

These days, a common complaint one hears from experienced pro-dommes is that there are too many amateurs who are hoping to make a quick buck from domination but have an inadequate knowledge of BDSM — and competing with them can be difficult if the amateurs are willing to work for lower rates. Vendetta observed, “Someone who’s really into fetishes can tell the difference between a woman who buys a 20-dollar tube top and a pair of boots, puts an ad on Craigslist, picks up a riding crop and calls herself a domina and a woman who has spent a lot of time and money developing her wardrobe and developing a dungeon. But someone who just read 50 Shades of Grey for the first time might not know the difference or know how the real fetish world operates. A woman who doesn’t have any training can charge $100 for a session, whereas I charge $300 and don’t feel bad about charging $300; I have an incredible collection of toys that I have been collecting for over a decade. But it’s harder for me to get it these days because someone who doesn’t know the difference will say, ‘So-and-so does it for $100.’ They don’t see the difference, and they aren’t necessarily looking for a really deep BDSM experience.”

Because it has become harder for experienced pro-dommes to break even with professional domination alone, many of them have other BDSM-related activities. Vendetta, for example, has additional revenue streams from fetish modeling and kinky erotica (she has worked with major adult websites like Wasteland.com and Joanna Angel’s BurningAngel.com). And Bound has a diverse résumé that also includes appearing in BDSM videos for the Philadelphia-based PunishedBrats.com, fetish modeling and BDSM adult education classes. Bound, in fact, has been a guest speaker at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Haverford College in the Philly suburbs.

Vendetta pointed out that many pro-dommes are also working as BDSM webcam models. “Every prodomme I know — which is probably at least 100 — is also doing phone or cam work or modeling or fashion shows because it’s incredibly difficult now to support yourself being only a pro-domme,” Vendetta observed. “There are a couple of places like La Domaine in upstate New York, for instance, that only do domination 24/7; La Domaine is a 24/7 training chateau. There’s no fetish modeling going on, there are no cam shows going on. But La Domaine has been around for 20 years. I know pro-dommes who used to charge $300 but are now charging $200 because they would rather get $200 than get nothing. I would rather get nothing than get less than what I feel is a fair rate, but that’s just me personally — and I have the luxury of pro-domme sessions not being my only source of income. Having other sources of revenue allows me to be a better dominatrix, as far as I’m concerned.”

Vendetta continued, “Being a pro-domme is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s a real job that requires a lot of work and a lot of study. The rent, the website, the equipment, the clothing, the lawyer, the CPA — that’s a lot of expense and a lot of overhead.”