Although this blog post isn’t about the TV show ‘Bonding’ it is partially inspired by it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the show – it’s a Netflix show regarding a young Dominatrix recruiting her high-school friend as an assistant.
It’s 7 short episodes – around 15 minutes each – and has created a little bit debate regarding a few factors.
Obviously, I’m in full support that some are unhappy that the main character has an in-character account on Twitter, with a blue tick; when actual Dominants and sex workers find themselves shadow-banned.
It also fails to showcase some of the external factors against the industry (example SESTA/FOSTA or the threat of the Nordic Model in the UK) – and she seems to walk around with little consequences.
There was also questions on realism (though, it is a TV show designed for entertainment.) but a lot of concerns regarding consent, coercion and some activities done riskily or sloppily (some of the rope work was… well…questionable).
There are quite a number of subsequent news articles and blogs sprung from this – some of my favourite I’ve seen – and quite a mixed bag – are : Mistress Evilyne, interviewed for Telegraph – Ria Harpsichord, interviewed for Huffington Post – Lady Bellatrix, interviewed for Buzzfeed – I’ve picked these not only for the slightly different approach, but that these are politically different publications all now doing a responsive article which helps shed more light on the industry and issues. So, if NOTHING else, it’s got mainstream media talking, seemingly on ‘our’ side.
Anyway, had Bonding have been perfect, then it’d have been even less realistic.
We’re far from perfect
The industry is far from perfect. While it’s good to call out examples of things that were done badly – let’s not cloud that many mistakes are regularly made in our industry.
I started thinking about my own experiences and some of the things I’d either been on the receiving end of, seen happen, heard about or have somewhat shocking confessions.
I then decided to invite others to anonymously submit their own experiences – which reminded me of some issues and brought up other shocking stories. Some of these are paraphrased, but retain context.
A list – content warning, some of these are quite gruesome/triggering
“There was the Domme who decided to melt wax in a microwave – poured it straight on the sub and scolded him”
“I was doing a cigarette torture scene and, it was enjoyable at first – but it started to get intense and painful. She’d been leaving cigarettes to burn out on my skin. The pain stopped being so intense as she had caused nerve damage. I was left with burns which took 18 months to heal with regular hospital appointments”
“I booked a sounding session…. but she didn’t have a sounding kit so used toothpicks! After placing them inside, she stomped on my cock. The splintered. I was pissing blood for days”
“I was told I’d have 100 whip lashes on my back, I said I wasn’t confident with that amount so 60 was negotiated. She ignored both the 60 and my safeword and had never used a single tail before and just kept going.”
“In private life I subbed to a guy – I was young and he talked up quite experienced. We did an arranged abduction – but he placed a bag over my head, secured it with tape – and had brought no safety scissors – the bag ended up sucked in my mouth as there was no air!”
“I was gagged and shackled and felt there was someone else in the room – I was then told the scene would be filmed for ‘personal use’ – this wasn’t negotiated or discussed but being on the spot I didn’t feel able to say anything. I later contacted him who assured me it was deleted, but still…”
“There’s at least two very well known Dommes who have had sex with subs in session, against the subs will”
“There’s Dommes who’ve done unsafe CBT – cutting or burning beyond repair”
“I was very upset at a Femdom event and I went to the cloakroom to hide and ride it out. Another Domme came in the room all chaotic, I tried to avoid her – but ended up giving a sympathetic smile. She ended up telling me I was a naughty boy and decided she was going to spank me”
“I ended up in a public play scene with someone I’d just met – we’d not really discussed it properly and I had a panic 10 minutes in and called red. I was worried she wouldn’t want anything to do with me again, not helped that she just muttered some words and wandered off. No aftercare. Other Dommes were sympathetic and said they were going to have words, but this made me even more paranoid as I didn’t want to be the centre of a big drama”
“A Mistress was using transphobic slurs at me, when I asked her not to she told me other clients similar to me enjoyed those slurs. I told her I didn’t, she told me I was wrong!”
“A House Mistress groped me – when I asked her not to, she said “I’m the Dominant, I do what I want””
“I was quite shocked to hear a Mistress tell me ‘I normally charge for aftercare'”
“A Mistress was late for the session. Obviously these things happen. However, we still had to finish at the same time – so I didn’t get the session we’d agreed”
“A well known Domme hadn’t read my interest or limit list – I ended up breaking one of my limits as I was in a position where I was unable to stop her”
“I had a session booked in and shortly before the day I was told it’d be an extra £100 as she needed to increase her rates. While I sympathised, this wasn’t properly discussed and put me in an awkward situation”
“In a club which openly advertised they used the traffic light system – a house Dominant looked at me confused when I called ‘amber'”
Now – there are a mixed bag of things above – and some of them are a mixture of recklessness, ignorance and mistakes. Some of those there should be no coming back from.
But, ultimately my point is two-fold
1) As a scene/industry we’re not as wholesome as we might like to think
2) People make mistakes and that’s life and it’s how we move on from them.
In some of the above that are my contributions I’ve received apologies and we’ve moved on.
That’s life – it’s an industry where there’s so many different people and needs and wants and little standardisation that it’s inevitable mistakes will be made.
It’s why I can’t be dismissive of a TV character who makes mistakes when there’s plenty of us who do.
“Oh, but it’ll cause newbies to make mistakes”
Yes, it might. So will copying the wrong Pro!
However, I appreciate that it’s easier to call out a fictional TV character than someone you share a premise/club with.
What can we do?
I guess a question is – what can we all do about it?
Accept that as humans we make mistakes.
That, if we make a mistake, apologising for it is a strength, not a weakness.
Learning from a mistake is stronger than repeating it.
Calling out others is good – but we shouldn’t be selective. There are people who called out the TV show who are, or are associated with, others who are guilty of the same. Be consistent.
But, yeah, doing the best we can for the people we represent. Accepting that sometimes we fuck up, sometimes this hurts people (physically/emotionally/financially) and that, y’know, sorry and making things right isn’t beyond any of us.
Though, of course, accept some levels an apology won’t cut it.
I’ve fucked up. I will again. But, it’s in the learning that counts.
Personally. I do think, opinions aside, it’s good to see people engaging – but, don’t sugar coat things.