Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Perceptions, in the Eye of the Beholder

I was interviewed this morning by a graduate student of sociology who is doing her dissertation on pro dommes' relationships with their clients. I find that conversations like these, where I am asked to lay out the hows and whys of this peculiar career choice, can help elucidate my own journey to myself.

One thing that came up for me was the frustration I have felt at times from being misunderstood by those who have sought me out for sessions. In my mind, submitting to a femme domme presents a unique opportunity to interact with a woman who sees beyond conventional male-female dynamics in erotic and power exchange. You would think that, wouldn't you? Yet too often, I encountered men who assumed the opposite - that my professional status meant that I was there to serve rather than be served, with the rest of it simply a form of acting on my part.

I even detected a whiff of pity from more than a few, who seemed to think I was caught up in a form of "white slavery" (or I guess in my case, it would be creamy yellow slavery!). There was one who used to irk me by saying at the end of the session, a note of surprise in his voice, "You really seem to enjoy this."

"Wow," I thought, "this guy totally doesn't get it," ushering him out the door before the mystique could be tarnished for me further. I should have let him go at that point. I later came to regret keeping him on, as he went behind my back and wrote a review without my permission. Alas, I do not give second chances for such a betrayal.

The pity manifests particularly within the Asian fetishists. Funny, being only half Asian and growing up in Los Angeles, I was as likely to be mistaken for Latina or some other ethnicity than pinpointed as a Eurasian while living down there. My racial ambiguity proved to be a long-standing puzzle, as classmates who knew me for years would finally bust out with the "What are you anyway?" question on the verge of our graduation.

So I was fairly surprised, when first making my entrance into the field as a self-proclaimed Eurasian dominatrix, that I was never questioned on this. In fact, it felt like all some saw was the Asian in me. I think labels are an amazing thing like that. Prep someone by telling them beforehand that this person fits in this category, and that is what they see.

But I digress. The pity I sensed emanating from Asian fetishists seems to have roots in the Madame Butterfly myth: the noble but fallen woman who martyrs herself at the hands of unsavory men. A delicate flower who sacrifices her graces to satisfy the unseemly appetites of rapacious scoundrels. Ah, the melodrama!

This craft has always been about taking charge of my life, having the courage to manifest my passions and turn my fantasies into reality. That there are those who think it is about forcing myself into uncomfortable situations, for who knows what reason... Money, attention, some masochistic complex?

I shake my head at this, and can only speculate on how this seems to be a projection of unacknowledged issues on their part. I have a college degree, worked vanilla jobs successfully, am not stuck in the sex work ghetto, nor paralyzed by psychological demons.

These awkward interactions do highlight an ongoing challenge for me. Though I support myself in attempting to understand the underpinnings of these alternate beliefs which posit my experience more as passive object than volitional actor, I struggle with not allowing the empathy I gain to cause me to take on these values.

Like taking reviews too seriously. In my opinion, their very nature clashes with a true femme domme perspective. The teacher's pet inside me still strives to get an A. Colleagues advise me to just look away. Yet I can't. Perhaps it's like a car accident that I can't turn away from. I like to think it's more like biting into the fruit of knowledge. Yes, I am now cast out of Eden. But I know.

Knowing how men think about attractiveness without the niceties they use when speaking directly to women has been hard, no bones about it. I guess I'm a believer in trial by fire, because in the end I am grateful for being exposed to this truth. We, as women and girls, are told from the time we are very little how pretty we are, how wonderful it is be pretty, and how dangerous it is to be un-pretty. It becomes an invisible achilles heel, a point of weakness, only temporarily bolstered by external validation.

Why not just blow it out of the water? See it for what is, in all its subjectivity and relative unimportance, rather than run around with silly delusions and insecurities. How much more productive would the world be if the female half of the population wasn't so trained to obsess over this?

Granted, taking care of one's appearance is a task I endorse for both men and women -- and there are times when I look around and can't stand the latest anti-beauty aesthetics of fashion. It's about balance and proportion, as in everything.


I'll be offline for a couple of weeks on spring break.

~Kinky thoughts and bittersweet dreams~