“You’re going to find that there’s vastly different degrees, perspectives, and lifestyles concerning dominance and the communities around them. Some people just enjoy this in the bedroom. For many others, it’s an entire way of life.” – Z
Sex, what many consider one of the most important acts a species can perform, has changed over the years in what can and can’t be said, what can and can’t be shown. From small towns, where everything is done behind closed doors and church rectories, takes a back seat to sexuality in New Orleans. A city that in many, but not all circles, embraces people of numerous different kinds of sexualities. From the strip clubs on Bourbon to the ones off Bourbon where things can get “interesting,” New Orleans appeals to sexual explorers in ways small towns can’t, or just simply won’t. New Orleans, a city that was built by pirates and prostitutes, pimps, and especially madams, is a city built on, and for, sex.
Some people in the city think there is nothing particularly unique about New Orleans’ sex scene, but I politely disagree. There is a vast difference between a small Southern Baptist/Pentecostal town like Pineville, where I grew up, and New Orleans, the city that took me in. The sex scene, raw and amateur, but also practiced and professional, has an openness some find far more appealing to many residents and tourists. It is not simply the part of the city that most see, the little bit of the French Quarter, that some outsiders think is a sort of post-pubescent Disneyland, and complain about accordingly online (I’m looking at you Karen-and no, you can’t see the French Quarter’s “manager”) when they find out there are Real Humans here who are comfortable in their own skin.
No one article can view the total of New Orleans sex scene by far. From subcultures involving everything from puppy play to the sexual allure of much of the vampire community, New Orleans is a complicated scene. But I’d like to touch on that small piece of BDSM, which depending on who you ask, means Bondage & Discipline/Domination & Submission/Sadism & Masochism, or Bondage, Domination, Sadism, and Masochism. Despite the feedback I know I will get, the definition of the acronym is negligible since it’s a broad catch-all term for a wide variety of acts and subcultures.
First, there’s the big D, Dominance, which is as fascinating professionally as it is privately, and especially when it’s done right with a focus on consent, through safe words and healthy communication. It is an activity in which any willing person can learn and participate.
There are many ways to fill your fetish, with FetLife being one of the most well-known ways of accessing the community. But there’s an even more efficient way for those who have the means – the highly respected Mistress Genevieve, professional dominatrix and model, whose brain is one of my favorites to pick. She has been doing this for 25 years. Genevieve even has her own dungeon that she uses for work, but also rents out to couples. She says of her work, “It was far more of a lifestyle in the beginning. It’s still a lifestyle, but when you’ve done it Pro full time for over two decades, your downtime, you want to spend with your cat.”
The joy of torturing other people mixed with a love for cats is something Z shares with Genevieve. Apparently, at least in one UK publication going around Facebook, they are likely onto something. As this article points out, “Apparently cat owners might be more into bondage and BDSM than everyone else.”
Z is not a professional Dom, but he is also a cat lover. He indicates that domination is for fun. “It’s been a lot of things for me. It’s been just a piece of my lifestyle, but not all of it. While there are certain acts that border on needs, especially breath play, it’s not something I’m deeply into. I have rarely spent much time in the community. Instead, I’m a bit of an outlier.” He pauses, “Actually, I think I’m deluding myself. I’m not sure whether I seek people who share my desires or if I convert them, but most of my needs end up being fulfilled, even if it was expected. Perhaps it’s my reciprocity or my will. Maybe both. I don’t need a dungeon, and I’m quite inventive, so probably my surroundings are relatively mundane.”
On the other hand, asking Genevieve about her studio, she wows me. “It’s two very elaborately well-equipped dungeons with suspension, bondage tables, spanking horses, a cage, a Houdini cube, a latex vacuum bed, a St Andrew’s cross, swings, stockade/cockstock/bondage frame, toilet-training seat, TONS of bondage gear, TONS of crops, canes, whips, floggers, TONS of CBT devices, TONS of electro-play gear, TONS of medical supplies, cross-dressing gear and much more.”
Some of the gear is fairly self-explanatory. For example, the St. Andrew’s cross is basically a big, usually wooden “X” that a person is attached to via cuffs, clamps, ropes or whatever else, and is used for various pleasure and torture purposes, often leaving the person involved “helpless.”
For those of you who are not familiar with other terms and gear, who have a desire to learn more, the internet is your friend. For those wishing to experience it first-hand, Mistress Genevieve and others operate by appointment.
Many people who do cross-dressing in BDSM do it as a form of having themselves humiliated. This isn’t the only purpose, but looking at some of Genevieve’s photos, it’s definitely a major one.
For those who think the lifestyle is exclusively pain focused, however, Genevieve says, “Many consider it a lot of yelling, pain and seriousness. I get asked frequently what happens if I want to laugh in session… I laugh. A lot. Often.” She adds, “I also have lots of clients who specifically state that they aren’t into pain.”
“There’s even a misconception that clients have, that there’s one type of dynamic, tone, and specific range of play interests associated with the word ‘domination.’ You ask, ‘What type of BDSM activities are you into?’ They often answer, ‘I want to be dominated.’
“Some honestly believe that is a specific answer for the thing in their head. A thing they think is a range in its entirety… it’s really just a narrow corner of BDSM based only on the porn they seek out and their mindset.
“Others say it that vaguely because they fear having to articulate their needs will compromise the feeling that they are being dominated, making it feel like they have too much input and control.”
Z says, “I’ve met people who say they don’t have limits. It’s just not true. When people say they have no limits, I like to play a game where I suggest the most twisted thing I can think of. Suddenly it turns out they do have limits.”
Genevieve agrees, “Many will insist they have no limits… in my experience EVERYONE has some type of limit, boundary, or trigger that will set back or ruin their ability to get into the desired headspace.
“The fantasy is that it just happens that the dominant dominates you and it fits your fantasy and avoids your boundaries magically. That is unrealistic. The truth is, domination is a delicate set up of motivation, discouraging, discipline, reward… knowing where a boundary is, when to push it, how to move it, but NEVER BREACH it. You’re training up, with a delicate and controlled touch to redefine boundaries over time.”
Speaking to “Lux” a male dominant/artist , he says of the lifestyle, “It’s very complex, and most people don’t realize that the submissive REALLY holds the power.” He continues, “Because the submissive CHOOSES to submit. They place themselves at the whim of the dominant… Without a sub, a dominant is just a pushy asshole…” Lux is different from Mistress Genevieve in that he does it for pleasure.
When it comes to the power of the sub, it seems like besides Lux, the best place to turn to would be the sub, themselves. I talked with Gypsy, who says of her own life, “my husband and I have been a 24/7 D/s couple for several years now.” Asking her whether it’s accurate that the sub is really the one holding the power, she replies, “In effect, yes. My Dom can’t pass any of my hard limits. Should I feel things are going to fast, or too far, I have my safewords. And of course, without being offered my submission to begin with, the Dom has no power at all.”
Lux is definitely passionate about his pursuit. “This is all about my needs and pleasure. I would not dream of engaging in financial dominance. That, to me at least, is icky.” But he makes it clear this is his personal opinion. “I support sex workers in all milieu, but I could not be one, especially with my chosen vocations.”
What I don’t think people realize, besides that the sub is the one with the power, is the value of consent, which I touched on earlier. Lux is in complete agreement. “Consent isn’t a big part,’’ he says, “It is EVERYTHING. Safe, Sane and Consensual and RACK (Risk Assessed Consensual Kink).”
Like Genevieve, Lux has given me a new term I’m unfamiliar with: RACK. He explains it this way, “It’s another version of Safe, Sane and Consensual, but it acknowledges that there are certain activities (bondage, impact, fire, breath play, for example), that involve a certain amount of risk. And RACK addresses this. We engage in this activity being fully aware of the risks and consent to that.”
Z says, “I think having an understanding of risk as important, but knowing your abilities is important as well. I like breath play. It’s my favorite thing. But there’s a fine line between knowing how to cut off air-flow, and choking them to death.” He admits, “That boundary was accidentally crossed once, and she loved it, saying it was the best experience she ever had, as she lost consciousness. I, however, promised to do better going forward. Killing someone is a big no-no.”
From my own perspective, BDSM and the concept of consent have some very feminist overtones or connections, but Lux says differently, “Not necessarily. To put it under the umbrella of feminism is to ignore a huge portion of the dynamics. There are male D/maleS couples, trans, and female D/maleS… All of those require consent without the feminist mantle.”
Z says, “I think it is very much a feminist practice. Women haven’t really had the power in most of their history, no matter what their position is.” He adds, “Look marital rape was still legal in some parts of the United States until 1993.”
Gypsy agrees, “It’s an interesting question because I’ve been asked how I can be both a submissive and a feminist. But it’s about choice – I choose to give away some of my power, and I enjoy the rewards that I get from that. And that’s ultimately what feminism is about – the power to make the choice.”
Asked about the nitty gritty WHY of Lux’s need for dominance, he replies, “Hmmm, that is a lot to unpack. I would say it is a fetish, but that psychologically is inaccurate. A fetish is something you require for climax. I feel a compulsion to be aggressive, and controlling in a sexual manner.”
Many people I interviewed suggest FetLife as the best place to meet like-minded people. But not Lux. “You’d be surprised. My current playmate was from OkCupid. Back in the day, Craigslist. Rarely Fetlife. Once, in a while, one partner was from Tinder.”
Z also emphasizes surprising methods, “Honestly, I meet them online, in bars, coffee shops. To me, honesty is important, but what I’ve learned is most people have a side of them they want to explore, or that they didn’t know they wanted to explore, and most women I’ve met have a desire to indulge submissiveness sometimes.”
So how does a person begin this journey of exploration? Lux says, “Seek out your local community, find a mentor. Do NOT jump into commitment. Play at the local clubs and parties.”
Gypsy has more specific suggestions, when she says, “As with most things, finding a mentor is always a good place to start. For me, that was the people at SubMrs, who helped me figure out what I wanted and how to introduce my husband to the idea.” And for the male dominants, she adds, “They have a partner site, HusDom for husbands/Dominants.”
Z says, “Read. When in doubt, I always recommend starting with print, whether that’s a magazine article, a book, or just a website. Start with reading.” Enter the erudite kinkster.
Ending this on a sex positive note, I’ll leave you with Mistress Genevieve’s words, “If you’re a furry or an adult baby or a pony or a puppy, you’re not hurting anyone and everyone should celebrate that you’re happy expressing within a healthy, loving context.”
Happy exploring, everyone! Stay safe out there.
Michael David Raso has worked as a writer, editor, and journalist for several different publications since graduating from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. If you like this piece, be sure to read his piece on erasing the stigma of sex shops in New Orleans, here.