Mistress Velvet: The African Dominatrix on Queer Sex Work, Finding Your Niche, and Cis White Slaves

I first saw Mistress Velvet, a Ghanaian Dominatrix, PhD student, and femme at a bar called Juniors in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago a few months ago. She had two slaves attached to chains beside her when she entered the room and with dildo in hand, she crouched over her assistants and interacted with the crowd through a set that left me completely in awe.

I was shook. Miss Velvet was someone I needed to talk to — her fire was undeniable.

Located in the Southside of Chicago, Miss Velvet spoke with Slutist about the fetishization of black women, the ins and outs of being a dominatrix, and the power of being a feminist and queer sex worker.

How did you get your start in BDSM? How long have you been a mistress?

I have been a mistress for three years. In 2014, I got into grad school. I quit my job, I moved to Honduras to teach English for a few months. I moved back and said, “Oh, this is great. I start school in a couple of months and I have no money.” I think it was a combination of someone talking to me about Backpage, which is a like a Craigslist and you can do escorting and stuff on there. I needed to find quick money before I was evicted. I found myself on Backpage and someone on there had an advertisement that said they were looking for a mistress, or a domme, and they didn’t need experience. I thought, “Okay, I don’t know what the hell this is but I’m gonna try it.”

I started watching a bunch of BDSM videos. I had sessions with him a couple of times over the course of two months and was really terrible. It was awful. I started getting a lot of money out of it but I was not growing in the way that he needed. I would hit him with a paddle and apologize right away. I would do things and feel uncomfortable with what discomfort I was causing this stranger in my life. The last day that we saw each other he said, “You will never be a dominatrix.” That kind of really pissed me off. So I thought, “I am going to do this and I am going to prove him wrong.” I started getting more serious about it and doing more research. I began my own personal relationship with it over time by developing my persona and finding my niche within BDSM and what felt good for me.

Over the years it has turned into me having specifically cis white men as clients and the catharsis that comes with being able to exert power over people that have a lot of institutional power. It didn’t start with that intentionality, but that’s where I am with it now.

missv3

Are you naturally a dominant person?

Yes and no. I do a lot of political work. Sometimes when I’m organizing in spaces, I can be very in control. At the same time, I feel like I’m a tender person. I would say I’m not naturally dominant. The feelings and relationships to the people I domme is very different from the people who I have a more personal and intimate relationship with outside of work. The domming doesn’t feel as good when I’m doing it to someone I care about. I have a different relationships to the cis, rich white men that come to my dungeon. It feels more natural in those regards.

Can you talk about that relationship a little bit more?

There is a lot of privilege associated with the amount of money it costs to indulge in the fantasies of sex and hiring a sex worker to help you fulfill those fantasies. At the time I was living in Carrboro, North Carolina — a pretty white place near Raleigh — so I would get a lot of business men. I would have taken women of color, or anyone, but my slaves were predominantly white because people needed to have an expendable income. That has informed my own feelings. What kind of things come into play that put me in a room with this person right now, who is spending this money, to experience what they are wanting to experience?

I advertise as an immigrant from Africa. I advertise a lot of the things that are fetishized about me, like my dark skin, and being a black woman in school — things that are not stereotypically attributed to black womanhood because of racism and colonialism. I use these things to my advantage. Of the people that come in, they respect me, but that’s because they aren’t used to being in contact with people of color. Many of them are in privileged occupations where they are among a bunch of other white men and a few other white women. They aren’t used to black dominant females.

I also influence them. I make them do a lot of political studying, in addition to physical and emotional punishments, because I feel like it’s important for them to get some understanding of black feminist theory. It’s good enough to be able to beat and spank a bunch of straight white guys, but for my own personal needs I inundate them with a lot of my theoretical and political beliefs. It changes some of them. They come back, over time, and talk about how it changed how they feel about black women outside of the sessions, and how they interact with black women in public, in the streets. Another guy started a foundation to help black women and single mothers in the Southside of Chicago get homes and access to school. It’s not systemically revolutionary work that I’m doing, but it feels good on an individual level.

You don’t typically perform but you did at Juniors. Is that something you would like to try again?

Yeah! It was a really scary and exciting experience. It was my form of outing myself as a sex worker and as Mistress Velvet. It’s something that is deeply a part of who I am. Most of my friends know that I am Mistress Velvet. My social media talks about it. I have also done a lot of work to make sure that certain people in my life don’t see it. Personal people and family don’t know this about me. Of course social media is still kind of finicky, but for the most part I feel secure in that I am able to choose who sees this aspect of my life. The performance was a really public thing. I presented Mistress Velvet outside of sessions in the dungeon. That made it very scary because even after all of these years I thought to myself, “This is really work that I engage in.” It felt very real in a different way for the first time.

I was originally going to do it with clients but then I ended up doing it with people I care about, my primary partner and then another partner of mine. It felt good to do it that way and also be able to talk about my fears and anxieties with the people performing with me. The performance itself was really great. TRQPiTECA is a queer, art night that is so accepting and judgment free. Whatever mistakes that I felt like I did, TRQPiTECA was a great space for me to have that experience. It felt very affirming. It made me feel closer to Mistress Velvet. My slaves are people who only know me as Mistress Velvet and don’t know anything about my personal life. A lot of people there that night were getting to experience these two different personas. Myself, and my work persona. It was complicated but very rewarding. I would do it again.

missv4

How long do your sessions typically last?

There’s a woman named Lady Sophia and she owns Chicago Owner Rentals. There are two locations, one in Logan Square and one in the West Loop. The West Loop location is a huge studio apartment with different corners and stations. The Logan Square location is a big apartment with multiple rooms that she has transformed into different dungeons, as well as the living room in the apartment which has been transformed into a more domestic space. You get a lot of different vibes. One of the rooms is called the “Red Room,” which is a little more cliche: the walls are red and it looks like what people fantasize about from Fifty Shades of Grey. The “Chamber Playroom” has a more sadistic feel. Then one of the rooms she has left as a bedroom for a more private and intimate space depending on what you’re looking for with your slave.

We rent by the hour. I typically do an hour to two hour sessions. There is the option of doing multiple hour long sessions and overnight stuff. I typically don’t do that because they are very expensive. After I get comfortable with a slave, I offer sessions in my home for house servitude, being my maid, serving me in that way. Those sessions, I don’t charge by the hour, but are typically over the course of a couple of hours. They treat it like a work day, so they stay for 8 hours and they clean or cater to me and my friends. I have my own tools and my own toys here so we can still have our own bondage and BDSM stuff that we would crave while at the dungeon.

Do you decide which rooms to go into? Or do they?

I decide based on my mood that day. If a person is new I will choose “The Red Room” because it’s less intimidating. If I’ve had someone for a long time or I know they are really into punishment, I will choose the darker room where I can suspend them and beat them. It has an antiquated vibe. It’s scary for some people to walk into a room and see that right away so I might put someone new in “The Red Room.” I don’t ever typically use the domestic space, or the kitchen area at the Chicago Dungeon Rentals, because I would just do it at my home. I don’t ever use the bedroom space because it’s reminiscent of the work I did in North Carolina, where I didn’t have a dungeon and I did a lot of out calls in hotels, so I’m just taking advantage of having an actual dungeon…and don’t really need a bed.

missv6

What are some common misconceptions about your work?

Ah, yes. Well my experience on Tinder, where I write that I’m a dominatrix, I always get messages that say, “Oh, you get paid to beat up people.” That’s what everyone will say. Certainly punishment like that is a form of this work but the BDSM that I practice and the kind that my clients are looking for is more mental ownership and really feeling that I control them and their lives. That control can look a variety of ways. I don’t have to use spanking or physical punishment to exert control.

A lot of times people think that you are in a cat suit with heels. Many people do take on that aesthetic. I am more of a lingerie and corset sort of person. I am a soft femme with hard femme vibes. Sometimes I’ll have clients that like latex and leather and I can suit up for that. I really like queer BDSM. Sometimes I’ll have my combat boots on for a session. It depends on what kind of gender and queerness I’m feeling that day. I think that’s a misconception — the type of femininity that needs to be part of a dominatrix’s vibes. It doesn’t have to be one that is super binary. I might have my heels on. I might have combats and fishnets, and that’s fine too. I think sometimes clients are thrown off. “Oh my gosh! You dye your armpit hair and don’t shave your legs but you’re still able to control me in the ways that I’m looking for…”

Why do you think people are drawn to BDSM?

Sex has this dual existence of something that is idolized, in terms of losing your virginity, and something that is demonized. Cis white men don’t get to explore sexuality in ways that are healthy, fruitful, and expansive. I say “cis white men” specifically because I am constantly thinking about how cis hetero patriarchy affects cis masculinity. Men grow up with feelings like, “You’re not supposed to cry,” or express your sexuality in ways that aren’t super hetero all of the time. These guys are having these feelings of wondering what it’s like to be tied up and have a woman take control of them. This is a really secret life for a lot of my clients in terms of them never talking about it with their co-workers or friends because there is a lot of shame. If their wives know about it, there’s a lot of disgust. I think people are looking for a way to explore their sexuality. I find that the work that I do is really important — to provide a safe space for people to explore and learn about themselves. It’s really nice to see how people change.

Specifically, the work I do as a black woman and advertising as a black femme supremacist who only has white clients. There are a lot of things that are based in colonialism and slavery that bring white men to want me specifically. Again, that goes back to the fetishization and the exotification of black women’s sexuality, which isn’t always positive but I’m trying to use it for myself in a positive way.

misv2

Do you see yourself doing this for a long time?

Yeah, I do. I constantly want to challenge misconceptions about sex workers. I have read things where people are trying to prove that sex workers are sex workers because we have some sexualized traumatic childhood or some reason to be pathologized. There are a myriad of reasons for why people become sex workers. For myself, it’s a type of work that I really enjoy doing. It provides me with so much flexibility. I don’t like working 40 hours a week. Every time I work it is completely different. All of the advertising, keeping up emails, and my website allow me to work from home. I love it for that reason. It allows me to explore myself and grow in ways that I wouldn’t see myself growing in a non-profit, which is probably what I would be doing because of the school stuff I do. I think I’m going to be in sex work for a long time. It’s been really helpful for grad school. If I get my PhD, it will be really helpful then. I can work just a few hours a month and get the amount of money I need without laboring at a traditional job.

Is this your sole focus or do you have another job?

Yes, this is my main job and I call everything else my side hustle. I was recently teaching LGBTQ and queer sex ed to high schools in Chicago. I also do adult sex ed work where my curriculum is focused on other adults who are sex workers or interested in sex work. So I talk about how we can understand our sexuality within and outside of sex work and how sex work can be healing. For example: Trump making comments about prostitutes and escorts not being able to be raped. How do we separate and intertwine our sexuality with our work? Lots of sex work stuff! Lots of sex education! I’m also getting a job that is training people who will be working in whatever capacity with people who have experienced domestic violence and my focus with that training will be with sex work. I haven’t developed that curriculum yet so that’s all I know about it.

What are some tips for someone interested in becoming a mistress?

One big thing for me, and I still feel this in my insecurities and vulnerabilities as a domme, is that I feel like I don’t fit a lot of the stereotypes and conceptualizations of a dominatrix. In terms of, constantly yelling or always flogging and this and that. If you’re interested in doing it, you will find your own style of domination. I think it’s really important, and you will find people who are attracted to your style of domination. I express a lot of my political beliefs and that could detract from my client base but at the same time, it brings a lot of people that say, “Oh, you’re passionate!” or “Oh, I also agree,” or “I don’t agree but I kind of want a Communist to spank me.” You’ll find your people. You’ll find your cliental.

Community is so important and that’s something that I lacked in North Carolina. I felt very isolated as a worker. I was doing a lot stuff in hotel rooms and felt a lot of shame and secrecy around it. Understandably, because it’s not something that our society let’s us feel pride in. In Chicago, I have been able to find a lot of friends who are dommes, or cam girls, or escorts, or whatever the case may be, with a lot of gender identities. I feel so much support. We support each other and it’s really wonderful.

missv

Lastly, as a black woman I’m constantly faced with a lot of racism within the sex worker community from clients and even from other sex workers. A lot of the spaces that I’m in are very white. I’m one of the few black dommes and that is something that I advertise to get clients. It also doesn’t feel very good and in that sense, I don’t have people to talk to about the racism or experiences that I have with my clients. I would say to women of color that are looking to get into the scene, be prepared to face a lot of bullshit that mirrors a lot of the bullshit that we face in our general society. Find your ways to make it cathartic and healing for you. As a feminist, I feel that this is really empowering but at the same time there’s lot of ways in which it’s not. I have to be very complicit with things that I’m not comfortable with and I make that choice deliberately.

It’s a lot of things to think about, and it’s not really easy work.

Photo Credits: (all images but the second) Nicki Sunshine