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Posts Tagged ‘ettiquette’

I’m answering one question today, since its content seems to have launched me into a complete post about the topic. Given my general long-windedness, this may become a pattern. But please: do continue to send your questions to delilah@dommedelilah.com , or comment here with your kinky queries, and I will answer them in due time!

Dear Delilah,

As a dominant woman, frequently I get approached by guys who think the experience should be all about them and what they want. “I want you to do X, then Y, then Z!” You’ve probably had this experience too. Obviously, I know what I think about it… but what would you say to these guys about why this tactic may not work? What would you suggest they try instead?

This is an interesting question, since it’s more asking me to pass along advice to unnamed submissives than to help you with this problem, which you already know what you think about. But thanks – it gives me a chance to think about this, and pass along my thoughts. Hopefully they’ll be helpful to you as well, but I think you’ll find that answers to this question vary for different people.

For one thing, it is – or at least can be – very different to approach a professional dominatrix as opposed to a dominant in the scene. For me, I rather expect – and even appreciate – a submissive who tells me what he likes and what he hopes I will do to him up front. One of my clients even arrives with a kind of script, which – guess what? – makes my job easier.

However, I don’t like a potential client who approaches with demands and entitlements, which makes me feel like a kinky jukebox and not a human being. Nor do I enjoy clients who pretend that they’re all into only what I like, and then don’t enjoy the session or get upset that I didn’t do x, y or z.

But what you’re talking about is being a dominant woman – someone who lives the lifestyle and only plays that role. As a switch, I can often have a very good time with someone who approaches me and says “I want you to do x, y and z.” I can also imagine that people new to dominance might enjoy the input of a more experienced submissive when planning scenes within a new relationship. But I can well imagine that a “true dominant” would find that really annoying.

So, submissives: some tips – both for approaching professionals, and for approaching dominants in the scene.

Figure out if you really only want particular things done to you, or if you really want to play with a particular person. This can be tricky, since usually it’s a synergy of both. I have often found, both from the dominant and submissive perspective, that I’ve been willing to do something I wouldn’t ordinarily do for the sake of someone I was truly interested in. I have only occasionally found that I really just wanted a particular thing done to me/to do a particular thing, and it didn’t really matter much who the other person in question was.

If you can untangle this, however, here’s what I recommend: if you want acts, go to a professional. A professional dominant is more likely to be able and willing to accommodate your particular kinks and execute them well. When you approach them, however, do so with respect and with an eye to what they might be interested in doing, too. Tell them what you’re interested in, but don’t make it a list of demands.

I absolutely love Mistress Matisse’s page on “slave training.” Read it for a great explication on different types of submission and how to know what you’re really asking for when you approach a professional.

If you want to play with a particular person, well then, that’s a different story: you have to know how to approach them specifically. That’s hard to know, but there are a few rules with which you probably can’t go wrong:

Do not throw yourself at someone’s feet. The last thing a dominant, professional or otherwise, wants is for some yahoo they’ve never played with before to drop to his or her knees and start hurling honorifics like Mistress, Sir, or Supreme Goddess. If you want to play with someone, you need to approach them as a human being first.

Strike up conversation first. How do you know if you want to play with someone if you don’t even know anything about them except how hot they look? Find an opportunity to start a conversation about something ordinary – preferably something that doesn’t have to do with kink. If you’re in a kinky setting, this might be difficult; on the other hand, it might lead into hotter topics sooner if the chemistry is there. If you’re not in a kinky setting, ease into it.

Observe them playing. If you know a person you’d like to play with, and know that they do in fact play, you should find an opportunity to observe them doing so. If this isn’t possible (you/they don’t do play parties or go to clubs), then find a way to slip it into conversation once you’ve opened up to each other a bit. Find out what they like doing. If you can get them talking about it, there’s a good chance of your getting a sense from their tone about whether they’d like to do it to you.

Talk about what you like without demanding it. This is likely to come late in the game, when you’ve already started talking about playing together. Before you start, or when you’re planning your session, talk a little about what you like. This can be difficult and embarrassing, but sometimes that can be part of the fun. I know I enjoy watching a submissive blush and stammer as s/he talks about his or her kinks.

Talk about what you don’t want. As a submissive seeking to play with a new partner, what you don’t want can be even more important than what you do. After all, if you get to play with that hot new person, and you already know that they’re into some things you like, then it’s probably going to be good for you so long as they know what to avoid. Make sure you make your hard limits – things that you absolutely do not want – clear, and also mention things that you don’t generally like, with the caveat that some dominants will enjoy pushing those boundaries for their own amusement.

For further thoughts on this, see this marvelous recent post about communication between kinky partners. Remember that sometimes you have to talk to each other, especially at the beginning, even when it’s embarrassing or uncomfortable; even when it sucks.

It all kind of boils down to the usual: don’t be a dick. Treat other people like human beings, not machines. Have respect for other people’s desires and boundaries as well as your own. But it’s amazing how often some people need those simple reminders.

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It’s already Monday again, and time for your questions! The first is a short and sweet one, but a good topic.

How does one get into the pro-domme business?

To be honest, I have no idea. All I know is how I got into the pro domme business, if that’s not too flippant an answer. I can tell you a little about that, but it’s partially dependent on locale, market, density of population, etc. I can’t tell you, for instance, how a domina in a rural area got into it or how she keeps afloat, but I know several who do just that. What you’ll get from me is how someone with an excellent support structure started a small business in a major metro area.

I had planned on going pro for some time – I think it was ultimately two years between the time the idea was first suggested to me and when I saw my first client. During that time I did a lot of reading and a lot of hands-on training: learning the (literal) ropes, practicing my aim, taking classes on foot fetish and breathplay and humiliation and animal play and just about anything else I could find. Friends helped me out tremendously by giving me instruction and serving as practice dummies. (Aw, come on, quit whining – you’ve got another kidney!)

Probably the most important thing I did was to get a hold of local dommes. I looked them up and contacted a bunch of them – each one individually – about my interest. Some were not responsive; some were. Some I clicked with; some I didn’t. In the end I was blessed with the resources, minds and advice of two dominas I greatly respect, Lady J and Princess Kali. From inviting me to parties at which I could meet scene people and market my services, to finding me space to do sessions in, these two remarkable ladies helped me tremendously.

And the rest was just smoke and mirrors: get some sexy outfits, advertise on Craigslist until you have the means to build your own website (I also utilized Pandemos early on), screen screen screen your clients, and start seeing them.

There’s a lot more of course, about marketing and screening, and how to behave in a session, and making sure you know your state’s laws. But the most important step, I think, to doing anything is to research: read, and find people who do what you want to do and talk their ears off.

I’m a kinky single girl who is getting seriously tired of the vanilla boys on JDate, etc. I’ve tried a couple of the kinky online dating websites (collarme.com, alt.com, bondage.com), but I only get emails from:

1) Creepy old guys;
2) Dominate Men who Cannot Spell; and, most troublingly…
3) Guys I might conceivably like, but who insist on talking about my sex life faster than I’m ready to.

I’m a wildcat in the bedroom, but I’m shy about talking about it until I know the person a little! What’s the etiquette for a first date off a kinky website? Am I expected to talk about my sexual interests, or is it possible to just talk about everything else and shelve the sex talk for a few dates until I know I like the person out of the bedroom? Help, Delilah!

Well, this situation puts you in a little bit of a bind, if you’ll forgive the pun. Kinky dating sites are places where kinky people meet to date, and just as people who connect through their love of chess may start their interactions by chatting casually about strategy, people who connect through kink are likely to open with a kinky gambit.

That said, just because that’s the context doesn’t mean that you have to open up about your particular kink or sexuality more quickly than you are comfortable with. However, you need to cut the guys who are contacting you in that manner more slack: it’s the nature of a dance hall that people who approach you are going to ask you to dance before asking you about your favorite vacation spot.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from domming, it’s that you have to ignore a lot of chaff: feel free to delete the creepy guys and illiterates without a second glance. But if somebody seems nice and comes off a little more forward than you’d like, just ask them politely to back off. If you’re meeting up partially based on compatible kink interests on Fetlife or something like that, then you already know that he likes to do things that you like to have done to you, or vice-versa. What comes next is what comes next in any dating game: find out if you have chemistry. Tell him, “Listen, I really like to get to know someone a little bit first. Once we know whether we’d like to be kinky together, then we can talk about how we might do that.”

If you like the guy up front, be up front with him – firm, but not discouraging. If he doesn’t want to take the time to get to know you, then he’s not the type of guy you want to be knocking boots (or licking boots) with, anyway.

That’s it for this week! Remember: comment here or send your questions to delilah@dommedelilah.com !

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Someone asked me recently how I set my rates, and whether it’s appropriate for people to negotiate with me on them. It’s a complicated enough question for me that I thought I’d blog about it, since that seems to be what the cool kids are doing these days.

For various reasons, it’s traditional for dominas to call their payment “tribute.” I’ve never been sure exactly why, but my guess is that it’s some combination of legal concerns and wanting to make it sound more ritualized. It may also be yet another way that dominas sometimes try to separate themselves from other sex workers – which is a subject for another post.

I set my tribute according to the going rate in my state; when I was starting out, I asked around and found that the hourly rate was fairly consistent. It was difficult in the beginning, though, asking for that much. When I first started out I had serious imposter syndome, and asking someone to pay a three-digit fee to see me seemed ridiculous. But I quickly got used to it, and after a short time could rattle off my tribute amount without so much as an “um” between the question and the answer. It still occasionally fascinates me, though, how clearly rare and desired the services of a professional dominatrix are. Are there really so few dominant women in the world, or even so few women who are willing to play the part with their partners from time to time? Or is it more reflective of the male need to stay in control and not reveal their vulnerability to anyone they have a stake in?

Again, a topic for another post.

I don’t want to speak for other women, but I believe it’s generally bad form to negotiate on tribute, especially if you’re a first-time client. Some of the more common annoying versions of this are people who try to offer me gifts instead of money, people who see if they can get a lower rate for multiple hours (only over 3 hours, for those who are curious), or who simply directly try to talk me down, as if I were a used car. It’s fairly simple: when a domina sets her rate, she believes that that is what her time is worth, and attempting to talk her down is likely to come across as if you think her time is worth less than that. I don’t recommend it.

I do occasionally, though, have someone approach me respectfully (usually via email), and tell me up front that they can’t pay, but would love to serve me in some way. For a long time I told these people, “Sorry, I don’t keep personal slaves,” but these days I often see if they would like to model for me. It’s a nice way for someone to get some scene time with me without paying the full tribute.

Once in a great while I will barter for session time, but only if the service you’re offering is very specific and something that I very much need. For the most part, though: I know it’s a lousy economy, but if you’re in need of the services of a pro domme, ante up. Anything else will probably not go over well.

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(Revised from my old blog)

One of the most common questions I get asked when people approach me for a session is “what do you like?” (The question is usually followed by the honorific “Mistress,” which I’ll get to.) This question, I’ve found, can have a number of subtexts, from the most innocent to the most insidious: “I’m new at this and want to hear more about it,” “I want to find out if you do thing x and I’m afraid to ask,” “I want to disarm you,” “I want free phone sex.” The list goes on.

Much of the time, I try to take the question at face value. But I also recognize that it really doesn’t matter what I enjoy if it doesn’t match what the client in question enjoys. Now naturally, it’s important that I enjoy myself; it adds a great deal to the scene if I’m having a good time. (It had better, hadn’t it? At least according to the roles we’re playing here.)

But I can’t pretend that it’s all about me when someone is approaching me in a professional context. You’re paying me for time spent with me; in some way, though we call it “tribute,” this is payment for making your time with me worthwhile. Hell, I don’t even pretend it’s all about me when I’m approaching someone personally to do a scene with them – naturally, I want them to enjoy it! What good is the feeling of my whip flicking across someone’s skin if I don’t get the shudder or moan or scream that tells me you’re loving it? In this sense the Dominant role is deceptive: you may be taking the orders and “doing whatever Mistress desires,” but it doesn’t work for me if it doesn’t work for you.

So: what do I like? I don’t dare sound like some of you subs out there who just say “I like what you like.” Because let’s talk tofu here: we both know that’s bullshit.

I’m not going to go over the activities I enjoy in a more than rudimentary way; I like bondage, flogging, singletails, clamps, CBT and sensory deprivation; I like control, fear, mindfucks, teasing and interrogation. (A (more or less) complete list of the types of play I offer is right here.

But you might read this before you even decide to contact me, if you really want to know what I like. It comes down to a few simple concepts, really: respect, reliability, generosity, a sense of humor. But those things can mean many things to many people. Here’s what they mean to me, in this context.

1. First contact. When a person first contacts me, it is their chance to make a first impression. There are many ways to make this impression; it’s unfortunate that so many of them are so problematic. So many emails that are just one sentence, in all lowercase, with all misspelled words and bad grammar. So many phone calls extended by men’s repeated attempts to get excruciating detail out of me about what a session with me might be like – as if this were a free phone sex call. And the endless “Mistressing” and referring to themselves in the third person – as if we were already playing, as if I had already consented to their attentions.

Here’s a tip: I’m a professional. Approach me as you would any professional. When you email me, introduce yourself, tell me a bit about yourself and what you’re looking for, and be thorough and polite. There’s no need to Mistress me yet; I haven’t told you yet what to call me, for one, and for two, I haven’t agreed to play with you! In some sense, prostrating yourself before me before I have even agreed to speak to you is extremely rude, and it’s off-putting to me every time. Referring to me as “Mistress” does not in and of itself bother me all that much, as long as it’s not accompanied by a bunch of assumptions about what our relationship is. In my favorite emails I get from people, they tell me who they are, what their fantasies are, and politely ask if I’d be interested in enacting such a thing. The openness of this approach is charming and inclines me to like you, and the politeness of it keeps it from being creepy. There’s a difference between saying, “Dear Mistress Delilah, I’ve always wanted to be tied up and left for several hours, then to have the Mistress return and torture me periodically with rubber chickens. This may sound strange, but would you be willing to entertain such a scenario? Thank you”; and saying, “Supreme Goddess of my dreams, this slave throws himself at Your divine feet! Please tie me up and torture me with rubber chickens until I fear I will explode! I am not worthy of even a glance from you, but I hope my small penis will not be a deterrent to your interest!” followed by two more emails of similar content before I’ve even had a chance to respond.

I’m a person. I may aspect the Goddess in sessions; I may act like a Mistress or Superbitch or Divine Presence, I may be performing the function of Dominant Diva in the moment of our meeting and during the time of our playing. But I am, underneath it all, a human being and a professional. Please treat me as such. Before you start putting your role on and throwing yourself at my mercy, let’s have a little chat, okay? Besides: you don’t even know me!

2. Setting up an appointment. I like it when someone has an idea when they’d like to see me when they call. Ideally, we’ve already corresponded by email, and the phone call is just an opportunity to feel each other out a bit and to set up a date and time to meet. I don’t relish being kept on the phone for an hour while you expound upon my qualities, ask about my age and weight, or try to get me to spin a free fantasy for you while you whack off on the other end of the line. I don’t like it when people make appointments casually, then don’t send me a deposit or ever contact me again. I have a life and plans to make. Don’t presume to take up my time, then disappear without so much as an apology. If you can’t make an appointment now, say so and call me when you can. If you make an appointment and can’t keep it, call me or email me, preferably more than 24 hours in advance, and tell me so!

Here’s my ideal contact-to-appointment scenario:

You go to my website and research me a little bit, then email me with a polite, respectful inquiry stating something about your interests. I email you to let you know I received it and that I will call you or that you may call me. We get in touch by phone at an agreed-upon good time. You are friendly, easy-going if a little bit nervous, and don’t try to Mistress me out of existence. Neither are you too groveling or self-deprecating for me to have any interest in meeting you. You simply talk about your fantasies with me for a little bit, agree on an appointment date and time, and mark it in your calendar. When you’re next near a computer, you send me your deposit. I send you directions. You call me at the agreed-upon time, and then get to the space without a problem.

This isn’t so terribly hard, is it?

My time is valuable. Presumably, so is yours. Don’t waste both of ours. I’m not saying I’m not open to talking to you for a little while if you’re feeling nervous; I perfectly understand the emotion and am willing to soothe someone a bit if that’s what it takes for them to feel comfortable coming to me with their fantasies. But repeated phone calls, attempting to get me to see you without payment, and assuming a Mistress/slave relationship where there isn’t one all annoy me.

3. The session. What kinds of sessions do I like? Many kinds: I’ve enjoyed tying someone up and blindfolding them while I deliver different sensations to their bodies and minds; I’ve enjoyed pretending to be somebody’s aunt and delivering a hard spanking; I’ve enjoyed dressing someone up like a woman, putting them in makeup, giving them a sissy name and hypnotizing them to put them deeper into their female role; I’ve had fun kicking someone all over his body, stepping on his throat and threatening him with death. But all of these things (and others) had something in common: I felt a connection with the person I was working with.

How does this manifest itself? Usually, the talk we have beforehand connects us and feels natural. Usually, the person has a sense of humor, and can be made to blush and smile if I make a suggestive comment. Usually, there’s something about them that I find sexy – even unconventionally so. And usually, they are open, receptive, and reactive to the things I do to them. My favorites are the ones who laugh with the endorphins, or because they’re ticklish. Or the ones who moan and cry out and thank me repeatedly as I, for example, strike their cock and balls with a signal whip. And the politeness, on top of all this, continues when a session is good: they are once again not groveling but deferent; not using overblown humility to get something out of me, but exercising manners and protocol within agreed-upon power roles to talk about what will be most fun for both of us.

I expend a lot of energy – physical, mental, spiritual – when I play with someone. If I feel that that energy is falling upon someone who either doesn’t know how to accept it, or has nothing to give in return, I leave the session feeling depleted, objectified, and vaguely annoyed. If I get into a rhythm and feel how much you are enjoying it, if I can feel your true gratitude and joy, if I sense that you feel what you paid and went through to see me was worth your while…then I’ve done my job in a way that thrills me, and everyone is happy.

It’s quite simple, really, but it’s a bit harder to make this part happen. But if the contact and the time in-between the contact and the appointment go well as I described, it’s a good chance that our appointment time will be good as well – because I will have chosen to see you out of a feeling that you would be fun to play with. I love it when I’m right. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s magic, and creates a great moment for me in the midst of a job that can often feel stressful and difficult.

4. The client relationship. Finally, there are certain levels of commitment and levels of play that I prefer over others, and this is potentially the most important part of this very long post.

Many people contact me about wanting to be my “slave.” This ranges from wanting to be able to come to my house and do my dishes to wanting to find a lifelong live-in relationship with a Mistress where the slave sleeps on the floor at the foot of the bed. For the most part, I am not interested in this. I am a woman with a life outside of kink. While kink is an important part of my life, it is not all of my life. I have a home, and people I live with and love, and a privacy I cherish.

The kink world I inhabit professionally is mainly as follows: I have clients who come to me. We talk to each other like human beings. Then, for an hour or more we engage in behavior that plays with power dynamics and the pain/pleasure boundary. We take on roles; we enter altered emotional and psychic spaces. We exercise and sometimes exorcise our demons. Afterwards, we return to our regular lives.

I know and respect that many dominas take slaves into their service on a permanent or semi-permanent basis; that they maintain their roles all the time, that it becomes part of their day-to-day interaction. I’m not entirely sure that I believe this behavior is healthy, but I know that it is done and that it brings great fulfillment to some people.

I’m not one of them.

My goal as a Domme? Bring joy to people. Help people achieve their fantasies. Bring a respectful smile to someone’s face as they spill gratitude to me, specifically me, as a Domme and as a human being. It’s no accident that I’m studying to be a therapist; what I mostly get out of this is a chance to help people, to bring them the loving touch and intensity that they cannot get elsewhere.

It’s probably for this reason that I also have difficulty with humiliation. Light embarrassment is fun; that which would be considered emotional abuse in other contexts I’m not so much into. A dear friend and a submissive once said to me: I like being called a slut, but I don’t like being called stupid. There’s a difference to me between making a submissive blush as I tell him to go with the nice salesgirl and get measured for a bra, and making a submissive cry by calling him a worthless piece of shit.

I also am aware that there are many people who are into this and for them, that’s okay, too. And I’m flexible: sometimes, with the right person, I can do things I wouldn’t do otherwise. But for the most part, it’s not about making you feel like shit; it’s about making you feel safe and protected because you are powerless. It’s about giving you permission to turn off your brain for a while and not make the decisions. To a certain extent, yes, it’s about making you worship me, but only in the sense that I am the one who reads you and gives you exactly what you need, even when you don’t know what it is yourself.

And my goal is to do that for a set and sacred amount of time, to bring you to a sacred space and then – and this is important – to return from it.

***
The overall gist? I’m human. I’m balanced, and need balancing. I don’t believe I have, or should have, power over you all the time. I open a space for exploring erotic possibility without shame or harm, and I do it professionally and ask you to respect me as such.

And at the same time: to not take me, or yourself, so goddamn seriously.

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