In the 1999 film Payback, Lucy Liu plays a dominatrix named Pearl. Clad in patent leather lingerie and fishnets, she stomps on her boyfriend’s balls and recites the lines, “Me love you, baby, me love you long time.” Accurate media portrayals of sex workers of color are hard to come by in general, but from her criminality to her willingness to let her boyfriend beat her up, Liu’s character is a poor depiction of an Asian dominatrix.

Domination—a historically taboo career that combines sex work with BDSM—is already sensationalized in pop culture as a world of cracking whips, villainous dungeons, and anguished screams. But combining that with Orientalist, hypersexualized stereotypes—either the fragile “lotus blossom” or aggressive “dragon lady”—can send some in a tailspin of fetishization and prurient curiosity.

Which is why Domina Dia Dynasty and Mistress Lucy Sweetkill, two New York City professional dominatrixes (pro-dommes), warned against generalizing their experiences for the entire community.

Lucy, 32, is Vietnamese American, and Dia, 40, is Chinese American. They came into their unconventional careers in similar ways, but have opposing personalities. Lucy’s clients often call her “daddy,” because of her authoritative energy, while Dia’s ultra-feminine energy gets her the nickname “goddess” and sometimes, to her displeasure, “mommy.”

Dia and Lucy run their business out of La Maison du Rouge, a red-walled, mirror-filled private play space in Manhattan, where they also host weekly Periscope interviews with members of the kink community, sex workers, and experts. “I do not offer body worship, massage or sexual services of any kind, so please be respectful and do not ask,” Dia’s page reads, noting that you’re required to share references from other pro-dommes. She does offer BDSM services including medical role play, obedience training, humiliation, and degradation.

Lucy and Dia both began working as professional dominatrixes over eight years ago, when they separately answered Craigslist or Backpage ads seeking Asian women who wanted dominatrix training. The ads led them to employment at an all-Asian commercial “dungeon”—where practitioners go for BDSM services—in downtown New York City, where they became friends.

They both recognize that their ethnicity is a selling point. “People keyword search ‘Asian dominatrix,’” Lucy says. “My assumption is if you’re reaching out to me, you’re most likely reaching out to me because my race played some role.”

Different though their characters may be, the demographics of their clients are the same: predominately white men. Dia and Lucy say that roughly 95% of their clientele are cisgender men, 85–90% of which are white; sometimes heterosexual couples will visit and the woman will return alone.

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Asian Dominatrixes by Tiffany Diane Tso

May 27, 2020