Sexually Dominant Women and the Men Who Desire Them, Part I

Dominatrix is the feminine form of the Latin "dominator," a ruler or lord.

Posted Oct 20, 2014

In this three-part blog series, I’m going to examine three dominant and powerful women: The Dominatrix, Cuckoldress, and the Hot Wife—and the men who seemingly need them. In Part I, I’ll discuss the Dominatrix. Part II will address the lesser known Cuckoldress and Hot Wife. And in Part III, I’ll examine the sexually passive men who paradoxically and simultaneously experience the pain and pleasure of being dominated. The dominatrix, cuckoldress, and hot wife are not listed in the DSM-V (2013). But because they vary in frequency and intensity, they can qualify as a form of sexual humiliation or sadism depending on the level of impairment.

I became particularly interested in this subject matter after having noticed an increase in the number of couples entering my clinical practice to work out the kinks (no pun intended) of their female-dominant/male-submissive relationships. Much of this work centered on one or both partners breaking an agreed upon contract. For example, a self-identified cuckoldress brought her husband to treatment because “he had the nerve” to cheat on her with another woman. A passive male cuckold insisted on marital counseling because his wife took a lover that he hated.

I’ll admit that while I’ve seen my share of cuckoldresses and hot wives over the years, I’ve only treated a handful of dominatrices. One dominatrix wanted out of the field, while the others had some difficulty separating their professional and personal personas. Nevertheless, I believe fewer dominatrices present for treatment in part because as professionals they have comparatively less of an emotional investment in their relations as do the cuckoldress and hot wife. Dominatrices may also have more control over their contractual agreements because they were formed with clients, not their intimate partners. It’s always harder to deal with family.

A Shift in Power

Kraft-Ebing (1886/1965) believed that it made evolutionary sense that a man be dominant and a woman be passive. Men were to fight off rival suitors and other dangers and to procreate. Women were to contribute to this process by voluntarily subordinating to men. Kraft-Ebing easily extrapolated from this that men tended towards the aggressive and sadistic and women towards the passive and masochistic. This stance is somewhat in tune with both Freud (1905/1953) and Deustch (1944) who believed that females were innately masochistic and passive.

According to Kahn (2009), times have changed as women are now somewhat freer to assert their dominance over men in all phases of life, but not without a struggle. The author claimed that many societies are having an extremely hard time allowing for this exchange of power and control to happen, particularly in a sexual context. In her article, “Putting a dominatrix in her place: The representation and regulation of female dom/male sub sexuality,” Kahn demonstrated that “social anxiety” sets in when women act or are even perceived to be more dominant and powerful than men…and men passive and weak. To her point, she compared the dynamics of the famous Canadian legal ordeal of Terri-Jean Bedford, a dominatrix wrongly accused of prostitution to the way dominatrices are treated in film. Kahn reported that the police and judge became the dominant forces and abusively relegated Bedford to a submissive. In the films Kahn used for comparison, strong white males eventually conquered, tamed, and domesticated the dominatrices. The objective: to curb social anxiety by restoring men to their rightful position of power over women.

Dominatrix: Definition

Dominatrix is the feminine form of the Latin dominator, a ruler or lord, and was originally used in a non-sexual sense dating back to around 1561. The term dominatrix is sometimes used to describe a professional dominant (or "pro-domme") who is paid to engage in BDSM (i.e., bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism) with a submissive. An appointment or role play is referred to as a "session" and is often conducted in a professional space which has been set up with specialist equipment, referred to as a "dungeon." In our advanced technological world, sessions may now be conducted remotely by phone, email, or online chat.

While it is most common to think of the dominatrix as a woman wielding power over men, many do have female submissives. Also contrary to popular belief, the dominatrix doesn’t always inflict physical pain on the submissive. The domination may be verbal, involving humiliating tasks and servitude.

The dominatrix profession originated as a specialization within brothels, before evolving into its own unique craft. To differentiate women who identify as a dominatrix but do not offer paid services, non-professional dominants are occasionally referred to as a "lifestyle" dominatrix or mistress. It should be noted that the term "lifestyle" to signify BDSM is a contentious topic in the BDSM community and that many true dominatrices view it as unprofessional. Some professional dominatrices are, however, also "lifestyle" dominatrices. That is, in addition to paid sessions with submissive clients they engage in unpaid recreational sessions or may incorporate power exchange within their own private lives and relationships.

The Dominatrix is a female archetype associated with a particular dress that depicts her role as a strong, dominant, sexualized woman. Black leather corsets, thigh-high boots with high stiletto heels, fishnet stockings, and a whip are familiar to most people.

Facts and Fallacies

There are many facts and fallacies about dominatrices that I will attempt to clear up with the help of a few scholars (Brame, Brame, & Jacobs, 2009; Febos, 2010; Winemaker, 2008). The facts are as follows:

  1. Many dominatrices work with female submissives.
  2. Dominatrices usually do not offer oral sex or intercourse.
  3. Many can separate their personal and professional identities.
  4. Professional dominatrices stay emotionally detached and mysterious.
  5. It’s usually more about power and control than sex.
  6. If the dominatrix becomes sexual with a submissive, she loses her power.
  7. Dressing up is about power and elegance.
  8. Men can be doms as well but are not the focus of this article.
  9. Most dominatrices live in major cities.
  10. The average fee is about $200 per session.
  11. Many dominatrices hold graduate degrees.
  12. Some dominatrices receive no personal enjoyment—it’s only about the money.
  13. Most, however, do receive personal enjoyment.
  14. Figuring out and meeting a submissive’s needs is the main high for many dominatrices.
  15. Another high is the level of trust given to them by the submissive.
  16. Reducing the submissive to a state of erotic helplessness is also a high.
  17. There is some evidence that the dynamic creates a strong physiological bond (i.e., oxytocin).
  18. Some prefer S/M (i.e., “sexual magic”) to S&M.
  19. Activities vary: Not all dominatrices inflict physical pain; some use only verbal humiliation.
  20. Many dominatrices specialize, but it’s harder to make a living this way, so they’re flexible.
  21. Many believe the submissive is actually more in charge.
  22. Some dominatrices believe the opposite gender is truly inferior.
  23. Many do not like it when a submissive sets too many conditions—it's unnatural to the process.
  24. Struggle is appreciated, because “bending the will” of the client is a high
  25. Most dominatrices undergo an apprenticeship referred to as “starting from the bottom.”
  26. Many experiment with being submissive to understand what it feels like for their clients.
  27. Pushing or stretching a submissive’s limits is enjoyed—but scary for the submissive.
  28. “Suspension of disbelief” or keeping it as real as possible is most important to the process.
  29. Slapping a sub in the face is considered by some “the most humiliating act.”
  30. Depersonalization is considered controversial; it is preferred by extreme dominatrices.
  31. Dom or sub preference will depend a lot on one’s nonsexual personality.
  32. Some people can be both dominant and submissive but most prefer one over the other.
  33. There are organizations centered on a dom/sub culture.

The Origin

The origin of a dominatrix may vary, but the most common factors associated with becoming one are:

  1. Adolescent curiosity
  2. An association is made between an object of pain (e.g., whip) and excitement/pleasure
  3. The association continues to be reinforced throughout a person’s life
  4. Lack of maternal attention
  5. Lack of maternal affection
  6. Little to no control, sexual or otherwise
  7. Sexual abuse
  8. A need for money

In Defense of Anxiety

Most of the dominatrices I have treated do not present as overtly anxious but their histories confirm a significant loss of power or control in their families of origin. This loss may have come in the form of abuse, sexual or nonsexual, or in the context of feeling powerless or “without a voice” in the family. In some cases, an abusive parent may have inspired a budding dominatrix to fear relinquishing control. Paradoxically, a passive parent who failed to intervene on a child’s behalf may have inadvertently provided the same level of inspiration for that child to grow up and demand the power position in an attempt to avoid further vulnerability.

A Final Thought

Like it or not, the dominatrix is a part of us. The black leather catsuit entered mainstream culture in the 1960s and remains. Strong, independent women capable of kicking a man’s butt like Catwoman, or the more contemporary Lara Croft, are viewed as role models by many young girls worldwide. The Women’s Liberation Movement continues to wield influence as more and more women attend college, attain professional status, and pursue careers and economic independence. Every movement has its price, but fetishism notwithstanding, perhaps the dominatrix has had more of an impact than most care to believe.