How dominatrix psychology can change your understanding of power

The dominatrix profession demands a mastery of human psychology and the ability to command life's many challenges.

Photo: Shutterstock
  • Professional dominatrixes develop an intuitive understanding of the human psyche at its most revealing.
  • The techniques pro-dommes use to control their clients can be translated to other endeavors, especially finances and work.
  • Studying the principles of these techniques can help anyone improve a craft or skill.


Ask someone to describe a "dominatrix." Chances are, they'll conjure an image of a leather-clad woman whipping a man through a Gothic castle while he yips submissively on all fours – at least, that's the PG variant. It's a stereotype force-fed to us by pop culture, either through comedies aiming for the easy joke or low-rent pornography aiming to combine shock value with a fetish object. But whether waggish or titillating, it's a portrayal that flattens much of the profession's nuances.

Professional dominatrixes (or pro-dommes) are women educated in BDSM techniques. They train and educate themselves in techniques to satisfy their client's desires and kinks in ways that are safe, ethical, and psychologically sound. Some even hold degrees in fields like psychology, literature, and public health. Through this education, they develop an integral, near intuitive, understanding of human psychology.

And since human psychology is a constant, whether in the office or the dungeon, this mastery can be retrofitted to command the challenges of work, finances, and life itself.

Make your money serve you

Photo: Shutterstock

When finance writer and podcast host Lindsay Goldwert began researching her latest book, she had no idea how many women she already knew who had been past-life dominatrixes. Today, these women were professionals in fields as diverse as business, comedy, publishing, and education, but they had all sent grateful men to their knees under the blessed sting of their riding crops.

Goldwert's book, Bow Down: Lessons from Dominaxtrixes on How to Get Everything You Want, became the distillation of the knowledge she gained from interviewing current and former dominatrixes. (And the inspiration for this article.)

Speaking with Market Watch, Goldwert said the foremost money lesson she learned from dominatrixes was to make your money serve you. As she said in the interview:

Outside of our bills, our discretionary income is a tool to get us to our goals. And yet, we spend our money to please other people's expectations of how we should live our lives. This can mean going out for friends' fancy birthday dinners, attending destination weddings, or buying or leasing a fancier model car. I started to think about all my purchases and the purpose they serve. And if they don't serve a purpose that will make my life better, I try my hardest to avoid making them. Who is this purchase for? How will it help me? There needs to be an answer.

In addition to making your funds submissive, Goldwert recommends you know your financial "positions of power." A pro-domme understands the power dynamics of any interaction and can subtly shift those to make a session work for both parties. But too few people recognize what power they employ in an interaction.

Goldwert uses the example of asking for a raise. Most people go into the meeting assuming they are the submissive because they lack the power of the purse. But, Goldwert points out, employees have more power than they realize.

If an employee does her job well, then she is worth the extra money. And should she seek opportunity elsewhere, her supervisor must find a replacement, train that person, and patiently wait for them to reach a seasoned employee's level of productivity. All of which costs time and money.

None of this is to say you can order your bosses to their knees and have them beg you to stay. But a better understanding of your power and position can bolster your confidence, a key energy for taking action.

Reorient power dynamics

Sometimes power dynamics won't be in your favor, though. A boss's personality may try to dominate any interaction. A question can take you by surprise. And nothing makes more people want to curl up into a submissive ball than public speaking.

Anyone can find themselves the submissive in an exchange or relationship, but pro-dommes know how to shift the dynamics in their favor.

Former dominatrix Kasia Urbaniak teaches women "to employ a dominatrix's rhetorical tools in any scenario when there's a power imbalance with a man," according to the New York Times. One tool taught in her seminar is how to overcome a mental freeze by shifting attention.

For example, when a boss tells a woman subordinate, "That skirt looks very pretty on you," she can shift the focus away from herself and to him with the comeback, "Where did you get that shirt?"

As psychologist Tara Well explains, this works because the submissive in an interplay is the one with the attention—whether desired or unwanted—poured onto them:

In dominant-submissive relationships, the dominant person puts attention on the submissive person — and holds their attention on the submissive person, keeping them feeling slightly off-kilter, so they stay on their toes and completely focused on their own internal experience. This makes it very difficult for the submissive person to take independent action, because they are literally being held under the thumb of the dominant person's attention.

And yes, pushing your inward focus toward the group allows you to take more control when speaking publicly or leading a group meeting.

Command the crowd

Even if you prefer being the submissive, there are times when you'll need people to listen to you. Writing under a pseudonym for Vice, pro-domme Margaret Corvid offers advice for anyone needing to be, and to stay, in command of a speaking engagement. She recommends:

  • Prep. Leave as little to chance as possible. Have a plan and then a contingency for when that plan goes south. "What public speaking has in common with sex work is that it's work: a precise combination of craft and creativity. Part of that craft is having the right stuff, working and to hand," writes Corvid.
  • Know thyself. Corvid explains that she's great with canes and crops, but no rope bondage-expert. When she's taking clients who need that expertise, she sends them elsewhere. She finds the same holds true to speaking. If you don't know the subject at hand, the act will be nothing more than a superficial chat.
  • Practice. Nobody innately knows what whip will offer someone the stingy snicker-snack they desire, and it's not as though life hands pro-dommes a manual for all the kinks. The ability to grab attention, keep it, and then stay in command comes through practice. Writes Corvid, "I have a client who likes heavy bondage and a severe thrashing. Over time, my skill with the canes, crops, and paddles he adores has become a sort of muscle memory, freeing up my mind to play wicked word games and throw sadistic taunts."

While Corvid's article spotlights translating these techniques toward public speaking, they can also be retrofitted toward any skill or craft you wish to master and help you gain authority over your life.

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