A Family Affair

Sex work has helped me define and enforce so many new boundaries I have set up for myself: physical, sexual, emotional, and mental. I did not have these facilities when I was younger, but as I began working as a Domme, I saw that such boundaries were vital to this industry. Even in the realm of fantasy, so much of what we do feels real to our clients. Oftentimes, it feels real to us too, even when we know that it is happening in a small compartment of fantasy—even if that small compartment is on display to a consenting audience witnessing a full-on shit storm inside of adult diapers.

Sometimes we don’t know our limits until they have been breached

Laura Letinsky, Untitled #59 from the series Hardly More Than Ever. 2002, archival pigment print. Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson, New York.

This piece is one in a series of three excerpts from We Too, a collection of narrative essays by sex workers, edited by Natalie West with Tina Horn and available from the Feminist Press on February 9th. With contributions from across the industry, We Too covers a broad range of topics—such as activism and organizing, parenthood and homelessness, sexual health and BDSM—and works to complicate the narrow understandings of sexual harassment and violence that emerged from the #metoo movement. The collection also includes Sonya Aragon’s “Whores at the End of the World,” and a piece by Lorelei Lee, who wrote  “Cash/Consent” for n+1 Issue 35.

Read more from the book here and here.

“GRANDMOTHER!!!” I wailed as I tried to push outward one more time, squeezing my eyes tightly from the mounting pressure and pain. I had a hard turd stuck in my tiny butthole, without enough abdominal strength in my little body to push it out. Terrible tearing pain. My grandmother came rushing into the bathroom. “It hurts,” tears streaming down my face. She disappeared and reappeared with my youngest aunt, my newly acquired uncle from a different aunt, and a large metal spoon. The young aunt grabbed my wrists and this stranger, an uncle by marriage, grabbed me by the ankles, and they hoisted me off the can. Hanging in the middle like a wet hammock, I was already in a state of shock as my grandmother came at me with the spoon. I have no recollection of what was done with that spoon, but I can make an educated guess.

Nobody talked about this incident with me afterward. We all pretended it didn’t happen.

The first time we met, Gregory walked into my BDSM studio with bright blue eyes and a porkpie hat. A white, military-trained, cisgender man, mostly bald and in his midsixties, he seemed familiar with the basic protocols of coming into a FemDom space: showing respect by calling us Ma’am and not getting too comfortable. My play space, aptly named La Maison du Rouge, is a studio apartment furnished with a metal cage and a spanking bench and large mirrors covering two walls, with other walls dressed in deep, womb-like reds and lush black velvets. After disrobing, Gregory fit in there, standing in his pallid, milky flesh suit. There was a slight tremor to his hands and his face intensified with earnestness whenever he spoke. He was particularly clear in his desire to serve women and to be held in heavy, immobilizing bondage. Our first session was in November, so Lucy and I basted him in our urine and then mummified him in saran wrap—a juicy Thanksgiving turkey. My partner in crime and constant source of bad bitch inspiration, Lucy was hired at a boutique all-Asian dungeon a year after I started working there. I showed her some basic BDSM techniques, like tying rope and wielding a whip, and we quickly cultivated a psychic connection in our deviousness. As we did time at the dungeon, we started to commiserate about the misogynistic male owner’s tantrums, the woes of tampon strings, and office politics involving red lipstick, body shaming, and the dungeon’s tyranny over social media representation, which was unavailable to us.

Our second session with Gregory earned him his name: Big Baby G. Outfitted in a white tutu and soft leather bondage boots with spikes inside, he was resplendent in our attention. He was careful to set his boots down tenderly on the ground, not daring to stand or walk unless instructed. Adorned in padded leather mitts that were tethered to his sensitive nipples through the pulley of the D-rings on his collar, we made him reach for a teddy bear. His cries were exactly those of a big baby. We shoved a giant crying baby mask on his head, and thus he was christened Big Baby G. Despite the torment, his eagerness to please us went beyond what many clients exhibit, and I was genuinely cry-laughing from beginning to end of the session. I enjoy power exchange in its many forms, especially when it has a sense of ridiculousness and playfulness around it.

Generally, clients come with a list of interests and limits which sets up the parameters of play in a session. BBG had very few parameters. With blanket consent from him, Lucy and I had free reign, which allows a dynamic where the client becomes our toy and it’s just Lucy and I playing together in our own twisted universe, two feral children goading each other on. She and I are compatibility in our deviousness: one administers the torment and the other comforts and soothes the person so they can sustain more. We are the good cop, bad cop; the angel and devil; and it forms a complete circle of laughter and terror.

A few more sessions in, BBG presented us with his desire to be chaste, for us to hold the keys to the tiny padlock that would fasten his metal chastity device. A joint ownership of a shared slave seemed like a fun idea in theory, but this was a new dynamic and I was unsure of how much work it would entail. I’d taken on “slaves” before—in FemDom speak, a Mistress/slave relationship is an exclusive one, where the Domme becomes the “owner” of a client, who is then trained to be her servant, her maid, her pet, her gopher, and her personal assistant—but I had never shared one. Lucy was quick to agree, but I felt like a reluctant parent adopting this adult baby and assuming a perverted sense of responsibility for him, starting with his dick cage. Apparently, a woman’s work is never done when it comes to men’s dicks.

Some clients have a distinct fantasy of being “owned” by a dominant woman who holds the key to a literal cage containing his “troublesome” penis. The fantasy revolves around the loss of control to a woman and her whims of merciless torment, oscillating between good behavior and punishment. There’s usually very little room in the fantasy for real-life logistics or the desires of the “key-holder”—it’s an asymmetrical sexual dynamic. In the grand scheme of Domme-client relationships, key-holding can cement the power exchange, and create a sense of financial security. It does so because the Dominant must be connected and accountable for the client’s sexual health and be accessible in the event of an emergency that requires removing the chastity cage. But BBG agreed that he would take guidance and direction from us in this slave training, as well as provide supplies for our play space. So what could go wrong with a big baby?

I welcome clients who are looking for a deeper sense of submission and devotion and want to start slave training. This is a nebulous curriculum based on the client’s kinks, personality, and privilege, but is also an opportunity to mold the client into the best version of themselves. In turn, I learn more about myself as a reflection of them, and vice versa. Cultivating familial relationships that grow and deepen was never something I sought to do with my given family, as I always felt like an outsider around them. Hearing BBG’s desire to, essentially, be cared for, I saw an opportunity to embrace, explore, and apply the maternal feelings that I usually reserve for my cat to a man. I wondered how I could eroticize this maternal feeling, as BBG was partially dependent on me for sexual release. All of it seemed like a challenge, but it was one I was willing to take. I believe personal transformation can be achieved through the practice of BDSM, not just for the submissive, but also for the Dominant.

Lucy, BBG, and I charted our progress after each session at family meals. I vaguely recall a time in my life when I ate dinner with my mother and stepfather, but the most memorable things about those meals were how I had to keep my mouth shut as my stepfather repeated his thoughts on tartar sauce. These family meals were different: joyous times for casual conversation about anything and everything. Lucy and I decided what BBG would eat so he could input the carbohydrate calorie count into his glucose monitor. BBG had taken to calling Lucy “Daddy.”

“BBG, how did you perceive your mother?” I asked him.

“She was a goddess who could do no wrong.”

Uh oh. I could see where this road was leading: into Mommy-town. I have been making a series of deliberate life decisions to thwart this progression.

It was time for a family outing at the “world’s oldest BDSM training chateau,” where my friend was the Headmistress. This quaint, woodsy, upstate property is a sort of kinky bed-and-breakfast staffed with collared and scantily clad slaves of all body types and ages, structured in old-guard, high-protocol ways. A sense of formality kept the “slaves” in their positions—trained with strict limits and directives of behavior aimed at serving their respective Dominant. Only the Dominants were allowed to mingle casually and sit in the chairs; the slaves had to sit and dine on the floor. Individuals who seek to learn about BDSM come here for workshops and play parties, as well as more committed training curriculums that yield a fuller understanding of lifestyle BDSM.

Our family outing included me and Lucy, her personal slave Pain Puppy, and of course our BBG.

The main house was a bright, open space with a sofa, a divan, and a set of two Victorian balloon chairs, all facing each other in an open square filled by a soft, plush Moroccan rug. Downstairs, the expansive basement was filled with everything you could ever imagine a space called a “dungeon” would house: red carpeting, chains swinging from the ceiling, a “medical” area behind a hospital partition, medieval torture contraptions, rows and rows of striking implements, and shelves lined with sinister spiky objects.

For me, the chateau was an energy vortex, imbued with over twenty-five years of high-protocol power exchange crystallized in its very foundation. I loved the petite and spritely Headmistress, with her playful, intuitive approach to domination. But in that space I felt tense with performance anxiety about the idea of constantly playing “Dominatrix” as opposed to simply being casually dominant, all swirling and pulling inside my head.

Lucy and I were scheduled to lead a workshop in playful humiliation. Pups was a veteran of humiliation—from light and playful to deeply degrading—but BBG was a relative novice at engaging in this form of play. They both were told that they would become our demonstration bottoms and both agreed—Pups while eagerly wagging his tail, and BBG with a knot of lines and brows on his forehead but a willful determination to please his owners.

I observed that BBG would often take on more than he could physically handle because his will to please overshadowed his bodily limitations. It took him a long time to do simple tasks and his fumbles were thoroughly exasperating to me. Such is the state of motherhood. BBG dropped things on the floor, picked them back up, and dropped them all over again. I regarded him as a problem child, one that had to be carefully monitored and constantly pumped full of positive assertions and clear, bullet-pointed directives. As a part of the slave training curriculum, I’d instructed BBG to learn to meditate. Despite his meditation practice, he reported stress was causing his glucose levels to rollercoaster, and the little monitor he wore would beep insistently. It started to feel more and more like a baby monitor. My proverbial teats were sore.

Boundaries were never modeled for me growing up. I’d never seen my single mother enforce her own boundaries and I grew up isolated, without the opportunity to put down roots much less walls. The poop spoon. An inability to defend my human borders. No words were ever offered. After being sexually assaulted when I was around eight years old by a kid whose parents were babysitting me, I told my mom and nothing happened. Physical boundaries for my body were never discussed, nor enforced. Emotional boundaries were even more abstract. Add all of this to the cultural tendency of Asian families to avoid talking about our emotions, and we have a void—a dark, vacuous void of language, modeling, and agency when it comes to creating boundaries.

But here I was, in the boundary-sensitive world of BDSM, running a playful humiliation workshop. Lucy and I spoke on the basic principles of this subjective and vulnerable form of play. The audience joined in the dialogue about how differently each person experiences humiliation triggers and that one thing that may humiliate one person may not affect another person at all. We began with our demo bottoms—Pups, BBG, and Sadley (a long-time submissive client and devotee)—adorned with animal face masks. A pig, a chicken, and a puppy all crawled around sniffing each other’s butts. The pig humped the puppy and the chicken clucked at the sight. There was a “stripper pole dance contest” as well as “wedgie musical chairs” and the audience had laughs and lighthearted pokes at our demo bottoms. Some find humiliation erotically arousing because of the focused attention given to exploiting a submissive’s embarrassment at being “less than”; a rush of hot blood to the face and the quickening of the thumps in the chest can exhilarate.

As the workshop was concluding, refillable enema bags came out, one for each bottom. The excessive amount of liquid used to fill up each bottom was sure to cause some kind of poopy mess, which is usually a surefire path to embarrassment. I was a bit concerned about BBG, a novice to humiliation, doing such an intense public act, but against my better judgment, I fed the tube into his back door and diapered him. I did the same with Sadley while Lucy gave Pups a double dose of enema water. Each of them filled to the brim, we instructed them to stand on wee-wee pads, the kind you pick up at your local pet supply store. The first submissive who needed to evacuate was ordered to declare, “I NEED TO SOIL MY DIAPER NOW!” Sadley closed his eyes and embraced his inner zen. Pups shimmied a little dance as Lucy tickled him. BBG stood stoic and unmoving.

“This is the end of the workshop, I think you can figure out the rest if you don’t want to stay for it,” I told the audience, a courtesy to the squeamish. But the audience sat still, transfixed.

BBG was the first to announce his degradation. As he began slowly filling up the diaper, that familiar smell wafted toward all of our noses. These were adult diapers made for adult-sized loads, but BBG’s diaper swelled and drooped. BBG rained so much poo that we scurried to add a few more wee-wee pads to his pile. A low rumbly, bubbling noise muffled out of his diaper as it distended out slowly. The audience vanished.

Poop is an occupational hazard for any sex worker who plays intimately with other peoples’ bodies, often when they are giving up control; dealing with someone else’s poop is completely normal to me. I have accepted this as a part of life and am usually not the least bit bothered by it. But BBG didn’t have the same comfort level.

“I’m sorry, Goddess. I’ve been backed up for two days,” he confessed.

Oh yes, that was very clear now. In the chaos of this emotionally distressing moment, I was calm like an emergency room nurse.

Despite this being a workshop for “playful humiliation”— which to me meant light and fun and erotic—it had devolved into this fecal tsunami. I doubt the audience anticipated this intense, odoriferous conclusion to the workshop. But I had no time to think about the audience because BBG was definitely going through something that needed my attention.

“I feel like I have caused my owners embarrassment and humiliated myself and failed as a slave to be a good boy,” BBG announced. Of course that poo-nami in the dungeon made him feel this way! The dungeon diaper fiasco escalated beyond what any of us expected and must’ve been mortifying to expel. Despite the audience’s kindness in assuaging BBG’s woes afterward, he still needed comfort from his owners. If my poop spoon incident was an experience deliberately created to humiliate me as a child, BBG’s feelings probably were not that far off. Sometimes we don’t know our limits until they have been breached, thus boundaries are often learned through experience.

“BBG, you won the degradation contest as the first one to soil your diaper. You were brave and did exactly what we wanted you to do, goodboy,” I explained. The tangle of knots on his brow lifted.

“Then I am very glad it happened and that I was able to do what you wanted me to do,” he managed. A small choke in his delivery indicated his intense emotions welling up, ready to spill over the brim.

The poop spoon. There was nobody to hold space for the myriad emotions I felt at having my grandmother do this caring but humiliating thing to me in front of my family. There was nobody to talk to about the violation of my body that seemed like no big deal to anyone else. I wasn’t going to let that happen to BBG. I met a part of myself that I’d never met before: the protector. No big baby of mine was going to go through this experience without a hand to hold. Often, we talk about boundaries as that which keeps things out. But boundaries can also hold space for what must be discussed in the confusing emotional landscape of newly felt feelings.

Sex work has helped me define and enforce so many new boundaries I have set up for myself: physical, sexual, emotional, and mental. I did not have these facilities when I was younger, but as I began working as a Domme, I saw that such boundaries were vital to this industry. Even in the realm of fantasy, so much of what we do feels real to our clients. Oftentimes, it feels real to us too, even when we know that it is happening in a small compartment of fantasy—even if that small compartment is on display to a consenting audience witnessing a full-on shit storm inside of adult diapers. I am caretaker to Big Baby G, perhaps not in the traditional senses of caretaking or nursing, but I know that my presence in his life has allowed him to open up to new possibilities. I know he feels loved and grateful because I tell and show him care and kindness, even if it doesn’t take the form that we recognize most clearly in our culture. In return, he is a version of the obedient and loving goodboy, the baby I never chose to have.

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