What does a male dominatrix do? A Working podcast transcript.

Here’s What It’s Like to Be a Male Dominatrix 

Here’s What It’s Like to Be a Male Dominatrix 

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Oct. 8 2015 5:38 PM

How Does a Male Dominatrix Work?

Read what host Arun Venugopal asked a male dominatrix about pain, pleasure, and the professional world of S&M.

male dominatrix.

Photo illustration by Juliana Jiménez. Photo by Arun Venugopal.

We’re posting transcripts of Working, Slate’s podcast about what people do all day, exclusively for Slate Plus members. What follows is the transcript for Season 4, Episode 4.

In New York City’s Lower East Side, there’s a dungeon with whips, swords, and a slave in chains where Conrad, a male dominatrix, carries out work at his clients’ request. Slate’s Arun Venugopal, host of WNYC’s Micropolis series, talks to Conrad about the impact the RentBoy bust had on his profession, one of the best places to meet clientele, and some safety concerns in the industry. Plus, Conrad discusses how he accidentally hurt a few clients.

In a Slate Plus extra, Conrad talks about how he came out as a dominatrix to his parents and how it isn’t always easy to tell people what he does for a living. If you’re a member, enjoy bonus segments and interview transcripts from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. Start your two-week free trial at slate.com/workingplus.

We’re a little delayed in posting this episode’s transcript—apologies. This is a lightly edited transcript and may differ slightly from the edited podcast.

Arun Venugopal: Welcome to Working, Slate’s podcast about what people do all day. I’m Arun Venugopal, a reporter at WNYC and host of its Micropolis series, which takes on issues of race and identity. On today’s episode, we talk with someone who’s paid to hurt people. Hurt and demean them, humiliate their pathetic selves. Show them who the fuck’s the boss.

What’s your name, and what do you do?

Conrad: Hi. My name is Conrad, and I’m a professional master.

Venugopal: Tell me what that is.

Conrad: It’s when you get paid to torture people, tie them up, and do all those fun S&M things to them.

Venugopal: So, we’re in the world of S&M?

Conrad: Yeah, that’s right.

Venugopal: And tell me where we are right now.

Conrad: You’re in my dungeon in the Lower East Side. And it’s covered wall to wall in soundproofing and sex toys.

Venugopal: So, I am staring above your head at this wall. What’s all this stuff? It looks like whips and such.

Conrad: Yeah. It’s a lot of corporal punishment stuff, bondage, and I’ve got some stun guns and clamps, like nipple clamps.

Venugopal: So, as I entered your dungeon, I saw a hand moving, somebody sort of waving at me. Tell me who that is behind that black sheet.

Conrad: That is my slave. She has nothing better to do than be here, so.

Venugopal: Can slave say anything to us?

Conrad: No, not really. Slave’s not allowed to talk. Because see, she’s holding a stun gun in her right hand.

Venugopal: That’s a stun gun?

Conrad: Yeah. You can see it poking out there.

Venugopal: Yeah, I do see something. I wouldn’t have guessed it’s a stun gun.

Conrad: Yeah. So, she knows that if she drops the stun gun, or giggles, or says anything without me asking her, she’ll get electrocuted by that.

Venugopal: That’s the price she has to pay?

Conrad: Yeah, yeah. She consented to that, so.

Venugopal: So, tell me about this. How long have you been doing this?

Conrad: Eight years.

Venugopal: And how did you get into this business?

Conrad: I used to be an investment banker for a while. I stopped that and decided to go the opposite way of living with money and working. So, I became a squatter and a freegan.

Venugopal: From investment banking to freegan?

Conrad: Mhm. Yeah.

Venugopal: That’s pretty serious.

Conrad: Yeah. Yeah. The last thing that I was going to give up before I would be completely money-free was my cellphone and my cellphone bill.

I was at the end of the line of my money. I met someone that was a dominatrix, and she said that I could do that work and it would be really fun. She said it’s better than prostitution because you’re not having sex for money. Was that a burp? What was that noise?

Female voice: My ball gag.

Conrad: What? Your ball gag? Oh my God.

Venugopal: What happens? Is her ball gag getting—doesn’t it get kind of wet and all suffocating?

Conrad: Oh God. I’m going to have to stun gun you.

Female voice: Really?

Conrad: Yeah. Uh huh.

Female voice: I didn’t laugh.

Conrad: What?

Female voice: I didn’t laugh.

Conrad: OK. But don’t make that noise again or I’ll stun gun you.

Female Voice: OK.

Venugopal: Is it OK that her face is being revealed now?

Conrad: Oh, well, she can’t help that. So, you know.

Venugopal: So, she’s got a blindfold on and a ball gag.

Conrad: Yeah.

Venugopal: Is there a pricing structure that you can share?

Conrad: Oh, yeah. Well, men in this business make a different kind of money than women, as far as I understand.

Women can charge crazy amounts of money. Men, not so much. I charge hourly, basically $250 an hour. But I like to rack up the hours. I like to do overnights, travel, and multiple-hour sessions. My minimum session is two hours. But I don’t even push that anymore. I try to do just four-hour sessions.

Venugopal: How long is this session with this lady?

Conrad: I don’t know. A couple hours. I mean, it varies.

Venugopal: A lot of this is about inflicting pain. Is that right?

Conrad: Well, there’s many different aspects to it. It’s mostly about power. If you wanted to find a common denominator, it’s not the pain; it’s the power. The person that inflicts the pain is usually the person with the power. It’s the power to torture.

It’s the power to bind with bondage. It’s the power deny, the power to tease—you know, humiliate. All these forms of demonstrations of power relate to submission, too. Because the submissive has to actually submit to these things for them to be  consensual.

Venugopal: So, there’s only some portion of society who you think this is meant for?

Conrad: Basically, yes. But I think that if you’re patient enough and you educate someone, you can help most people broaden their sexual horizons.

Venugopal: Which you think would inherently make them happier?

Conrad: Yeah, make them happier, make their partners happier, rekindle sex lives and relationships and stuff. I have coached relationships before, and they’ve always said that they’ve benefitted from it.

Venugopal: From this? Submission?

Conrad: Yeah, from learning about kinky stuff.

Venugopal: Before I walked in here, I was a little intimidated. I was like … dungeon …

Conrad: Yeah. I know.

Venugopal: Yeah. I was like, Oh man, what’s this place going to be like? Is it going to be this dark, dank place? I did not expect the sun streaming in through the window. I also didn’t expect a slave hanging on the wall or whatever. That was a pleasant surprise. But is there some kind of a thing that unifies the experience in terms of how different people do it?

Sort of an intimidating, scary kind of a situation? Or is that just my misconception?

Conrad: Oh, yeah. So, are you asking is it mostly a scary, intimidating environment that I would create? Or other people—

Venugopal: Yeah. When people say a dungeon, that evokes a certain thing.

Conrad: Yeah.

Venugopal: Is that the way it usually is, or no?

Conrad: Yeah, it depends. You know, if they’re into that, sure. Yeah, you could start off like that.

Some people are only turned on if they’re completely insulted and humiliated. And then other people, if they’re totally scared. Some people, the minute they come through the door, they want to be thrown on the ground, and restrained, and kidnapped, and stun gunned. They want the intensity to be that high. And that’s the only way they can be turned on.

Venugopal: Is everything legal?

Conrad: Yeah. I mean, the legal system is really weird right now.

Because the whole world is talking about decriminalization. Amnesty International had a plea for decriminalization worldwide. And there’s this really weird thing with the RentBoy raid that happened recently.

Venugopal: Yeah, tell me about that. I mean, I’ve heard some about it. I know a little about it. But what’s it look like from your angle?

Conrad: Well, RentBoy has been out here in this country and worldwide for, I think, 18 years. I don’t know the numbers exactly.

But they’ve working to keep male sex workers off the streets and safer by allowing them to advertise online, be able to screen their clients, and have an electronic trail of who their clients are through these websites. That’s been a really good thing. It’s never caused any legal problems for RentBoy that they’ve been doing this. And all of a sudden, Homeland Security went after them and arrested everybody.

Venugopal: Homeland Security. Of all the agencies, why Homeland Security?

Conrad: Yeah. Well, they said that—

Venugopal: All these jihadi slaves and masters?

Conrad: You’re right. It’s ridiculous. There’s no threat to homeland security through RentBoy. To me, the only explanation for it would be that they just wanted to seize their money that was overseas.

Venugopal: What about your business here? Is there anything where it’s sort of gray area? Or is it pretty much all above board?

Conrad: You have to pay taxes, and you have to follow the laws. You don’t want to get in trouble in this business. Even though it’s a gray area of what’s legal, the law says that prostitution is anything that’s sexual contact for money or conduct. I can remember if it was conduct or contact.

Probably conduct. So, it’s a gray area. So, if you touch someone sexually, then that can be considered prostitution, you know? Even though you’re not having sex with them. So, what you do is you just don’t touch anybody sexually.

Venugopal: So, you’ve never had sex with a client?

Conrad: That’s a weird area also. Have I had sex with a client? Yes. Have I gotten paid to have sex with a client? No. I don’t advertise sex for money.

That’s not the business I’m in. I do have personal relationships with people that have been my clients. There’s a point where, you know, if you’re in a relationship with someone and you have sex with them, it’s a normal progression. But I don’t have sex with them for money.

Venugopal: Are you clients typically scared when they first walk in here, the first time they come in?

Conrad: Yeah. A lot of them are shaking, and nervous, and sweating. And they’re palms are sweaty. Yeah, I can tell when they’re nervous.

I try to just like, get past the nervousness as soon as possible. Restrain them, you know. Start talking to them. It’s helpful if you know what things to do if there’s something going wrong with someone. Because clients can just freak out and then just leave. Or say they want to leave, or the safe word, or whatever. And then you don’t get paid. So, it’s good if you can disarm these situations.

Venugopal: Are you worried for your own safety?

Conrad: Yeah. Well, the things about my business is that I need to be able to screen my clients really well. Without RentBoy, I’m not able to screen my clients nearly as well. There’s a lot of safety involved in being behind closed doors, being on the Internet, and being able to send people a form to fill out. To send people data on what it’s going to be like, and to ask them for data.

Like what is your experience? What are you interested in? To have like a digital record of all this stuff—who they are, what their email address is, their phone number, all this stuff. It just adds to the safety in my life and in my job. And now that RentBoy is gone, I have to do a lot of my stuff, out at parties where I don’t who people are. Or word of mouth.

I mean, that’s a little safer. But there’s not a trail—a digital trail—of safety. A lot of other people that are in this business that are not doms, they’re even in worse shape. They have to go out to nightclubs and walk the streets. That’s really the most dangerous place of all, and all that’s not necessary. Prostitution is the oldest profession. Sex work is the oldest profession. We all know that.

It’s never going to end. You’re never going to eradicate it. You’re just going to punish and imprison people for doing something that they’re never going to stop doing it if it’s what they like to do. It would be a lot better for people like me and other people in this business if the government would just relax and stop policing a victimless crime.

Venugopal: Is there something, when people talk about Conrad—what’s your USP?

What’s your unique selling proposition? What makes you stand out in this crowd?

Conrad: Well, I used to be the only gay leather S&M master that I knew about in the beginning, eight years ago. It was just me. I’m also a very macho, manly, straight-acting dom. So, a lot of the gay sex workers are not so hetero-acting. That was my selling point.

But now there’s so many S&M people. I don’t know. You know, with 50 Shades of Grey, there’s like a thousand of them out there.

Venugopal: So, that’s really had a big impact on the industry?

Conrad: Yeah.

Venugopal: And do people come to you after seeing the film or reading the book?

Conrad: Oh, yeah. It’s so easy to talk to people. I can just be on an airplane and if I want to find my common ground with someone to talk about this, I’ll ask them if they read the book. And they’ll be like, “Oh, yeah, I read the book.” Or, “No way, that’s stupid. I don’t understand what that’s all about.”

So, it’s just so easy to break the ice now.

Venugopal: So, do you say, “Oh, this is what I do for a living”?

Conrad: Yeah. I check if they’re going to receptive to it or not. You can drop little hints here and there, and you’ll know if they’re receptive or not.

Venugopal: And so, some of them are not necessarily going to be into it, but they’re open to the idea that the person they’re sitting next to in the plane does this. And how do you introduce yourself? What do you say? You say, “I’m a master.” What do you call it?

Conrad: Yeah, yeah. Well, most people understand dominatrix more than master.

So, I’ll just say I’m a male dominatrix.

Venugopal: A dominator.

Conrad: Yeah. But that gets confusing too though. If you say, “I’m a dominator,” it’s just weird.

Venugopal: I have no idea if that’s a word. I’m just saying it. Do people actually say that ever?

Conrad: No, the term is master.

Venugopal: Now, you’re not in leather, that kind of thing. You’re just wearing jeans and a black T-shirt. Is that normal?

Conrad: Yeah. I got my black T-shirt on and my boots over there.

I try to have like a kinky look about my outfit at all times. But you’re saying that this doesn’t look very kinky. Well, yeah, you’re right. It doesn’t look totally kinky. But I have my leather wristband on. It’s little, little things that you use to advertise. Of course, when I go to the airport I like to be all decked out in leather, because that’s when I really want to advertise. You have a lot of access to a lot of people with money.

They’re all bored, just killing time between flights. So, it’s a great time to meet people.

Venugopal: That’s interesting. So, you’re advertising in public spaces and conversations get started, you start conversations, and occasionally you get clients that way?

Conrad: Yeah. It’s the oldest kind of advertising. You want to represent visually what your product is. You don’t want to be wearing flowers and have a feather in your hair if you’re selling sex—S&M sex.

You’ll know if someone’s looking at you or making eye contact. And if you’re dressed in a certain way, you know that they’re going to be interested in some leather S&M.

Venugopal: You periodically look over at your slave. What are you looking for?

Conrad: Well, we have a little safe word that we agreed to. If her hands are starting to hurt, I told her to shake the chains and then I would know that she needed them to come down.

Venugopal: So, right now she should be feeling a lot of, I guess either numbness or maybe some discomfort in her arms, right? Or maybe her back as well?

Conrad: Yeah. Her shoulders. Her hands are probably getting a little numb. And who knows? Maybe her neck hurts. But she’s doing OK. She likes it. She’s got nipple clamps on her tits.

Venugopal: I think I heard a small laugh coming from her.

Conrad: Uh oh.

Venugopal: That doesn’t sound like suffering to me.

Conrad: Well, if she laughed—if she really laughed—then I’m going to have to stun gun her.

Venugopal: Are there settings on the stun gun? Do you put it low?

Conrad: The only way to give her a less than full on stun is to just give her a residual stun. Do you want to try it? I can do it on you.

Venugopal: I’m not sure if there’s a legal thing. You know what? I’ll just watch.

Conrad: A legal thing. Yeah. That was a good evasion you just did. I’m impressed.

Venugopal: Pretty pathetic, isn’t it, actually?

Conrad: No. That was pretty good.

Venugopal: I have to look in my contract.

Conrad: Yeah. Got to talk to the company lawyer about that. I’ll get back to you.

Venugopal: Oh my God. I see a couple swords over there. They’re kind of grabbing my eye. Are those related to your work?

Conrad: Yeah. Those are just eye candy. I mean, I can pull it out and tease her with it. She doesn’t really care much for swords. But I have a really cold sword in the freezer that—

Venugopal: Can you show me?

Conrad: Sure. Because she likes temperatures.

Venugopal: Oh, does she?

Conrad: Yeah. Hot and cold temperature play.

Venugopal: So, that’s your freezer you’re opening up here in the kitchen.

Conrad: Yeah. So, I keep this little sword in deep freeze.

Venugopal: Wow. That’s an actual weapon, isn’t it? Or am I wrong?

Conrad: Oh, yeah, it’s a real weapon. It’ll really cut somebody up. So, touching her with it. She doesn’t really get scared too much about the cutting, because she trusts me. But the temperature play is interesting. I don’t want to mark her up.

Venugopal: Has that happened before?

Conrad: Yeah. I’m still getting to know this one.

Venugopal: So, have you made mistakes on the job where you hurt people accidentally?

Conrad: Yeah. Unfortunately, if you hurt someone that’s a new client, the odds are you’re not going to hear about it. Because they’re submissive, they’re probably just going to never come back. I don’t like to hurt people. I don’t know for sure if I hurt people. But I would imagine that I probably have.

Because I have played with people that I might have hurt and that haven’t come back. So, I have to assume that maybe they didn’t come back because it just didn’t feel right. But as far as like the clients that I have that I’ve kept for a long period of time, I would know if I’ve hurt them. Of all the people I’ve played with, I have hurt one person with some rope suspension. I hurt his back. I think he had a pre-existing condition. And then I hurt another person that, his balls were hurt.

He’s using a ball torturing stuff. And that was going to happen sooner or later, because it was very extreme. Like, I put those weights on his balls over there.

Venugopal: Ouch.

Conrad: He take 50 pounds of weight on his balls. I thought 13 pounds was a lot before I started playing with this guy.

Venugopal: This sounds like these religious sort of ecstasies people go into.

Conrad: Yeah.

Venugopal: Do you know what I’m talking about?

Conrad: Sure, sure, sure. Like a trance.

Venugopal:    Is it like a trance? Is it spiritual?

Conrad: It can be, yeah. I mean, something really primal happens after you reach a certain point. You become something other than your normal state, and everyone’s is different. It’s beautiful to observe it, to be a part of it. Not only do they get transformed, but I get transformed by the adrenaline. Not only is exciting, intellectually and sexually erotic, but it’s also a catharsis for the top, because I’m actually doing hard exercise.

And if we’re doing it right, they’re taking all kinds of pain and I’m straining myself very, very much. And we’re both at our peak performance. So, I’m getting a workout and exerting myself as much as I can. And if I prolong that enough and they’re taking all of the pain I’m giving, then it’s this wonderful crescendo that both of us have at the same time.

Venugopal: Do you plan on sticking with this job? Or is there something else you want to do in life?

Conrad: Yeah. I was just talking to this gentleman. His name is Daddy, and he owns Daddy’s Reviews. Daddy’s Reviews was named in the RentBoy raid in the criminal complaint. But I had been in touch with Daddy about how to help defend RentBoy and be an activist and decriminalize prostitution.

He randomly just commented, unprovoked, that I can work until I’m 60. I’m 42, and I don’t see any end in my career any time soon. Because at 34—that’s when I got into this—I thought my sex life was over. I thought as a sexual commodity, I’m done.

Because the people I was dating were interested in twentysomething men. And then after I became thirtysomething, I wasn’t attracted to those people anymore, and I thought I was over. And then I started doing S&M, and all of a sudden somebody mentioned me as daddy. You know, “Oh, look at this leather daddy. He’s so hot.” And then it just clicked in my brain that, oh my God, there is sexual desirability after 30 after all, and it’s called daddy.

You know, the daddy persona. Now I have gray hair on my face, and people seem to like it. So, I have a second sexual peak. And I’m still not over.

Venugopal: Thanks for listening to this episode of Working. We’d love to hear your thoughts about this podcast. You can email us at working@slate.com, and dig through our first three seasons at slate.com/working.

This episode was produced by Jason de Leon. Our senior producer is Mike Vuolo. And our executive producer is Andy Bowers. I’m Arun Venugopal. See you next time on Working.

* * *

This podcast extra is part of your Slate Plus membership.

Venugopal: Let’s see. What about close family? They’re supportive? Mom and dad?

Conrad: Yeah. Mom disowned me for six months, twice.

But it’s worth it though, because I was honest with her. I wanted her to know what I was doing, and she disowned me for six months when I told her what I was doing as a new thing.

Venugopal: Wait, just take me there. You’re like, “Mom, I need to talk to you about something.” One day this happens, correct? You sit down with her. And she’s like, “What is it honey?”

Conrad: Yeah. She’s like, “Well, what are you doing for a living these days?”

And I said, “Well, you know, I tie people up and whip them.” I figured that was the best way to explain it to her. I’m a man of few words, I guess.

Venugopal: You couldn’t actually use the, “Have you seen 50 Shades?” kind of reference?

Conrad: Oh, this was before then, and she was like, “Oh, OK.” She didn’t really ask me any questions after that. It was just radio silence for six months. You know, totally disowned me. And then she warmed back up.

I would message her like every three or four weeks: “Hey, I haven’t heard from you in a while. I hope you’re well. I miss you. OK, this is what I’m doing. OK.”

Every month I would message her. After a while she started to respond again, and then warm back up. We were cool for about four months, and then the subject came up again, and I said, “Mom, I told you. I tie people up and I whip them. And they’re gay. It’s a great job. I love it. I make tons of money and I’m really happy.” Radio silence for six more months. I knew what to do.

Venugopal: It’s almost like you’re coming out to her.

Conrad: Yeah.

Venugopal: It’s the same sort of weird stuttering kind of a process.

Conrad: Yeah, and I was patient. I did the same thing and reeled her back in. Then, she didn’t really ask any more questions. I didn’t force the subject. The next time the subject came up, I was like, “Yeah, mom. I tie people up and I whip them. I have a client in our hometown, so I’m going to come and see you. I hope that’s OK.”

And she was like, “Yep. That’s OK. Great. Great to have you. Come home, son. I love you.”

We got through it, and now, she’s cool. She doesn’t ask me questions. She’s like, “Oh, you’re buying an airplane. Oh, you’re buying a boat. Oh, you’re traveling to Lebanon. Oh, that’s great. I’m happy for you.” She doesn’t really ask me how I pay for things.

Venugopal: So, she wants to be part of your life to the extent she can handle that conversation?

Conrad: Yeah. I’m also 42, so she has less control over me now that I’m 42.

Venugopal: But is it something that you would like her full approval for and be able to chat with her about it? Or would that be just completely weird?

Conrad: Yeah, I don’t need to. Yes, it’s my job. There is the factor that when people want to know what your job is or how you make your money, there is a certain amount of disclosure that you owe them.

But then again, it’s your sex life, too. So, you can fully disclose your job, but you can’t fully disclose your sex life. My job is both, and I don’t need to tell her about my sex life.