Jessie and I went into the office to cover the phones and to wait. The men calling frequently asked for a description of the mistresses. I was surprised to hear Jessie describe herself as a twenty-one year old.
“Are you really only twenty-one?” I asked.
She looked sheepish. “I’m actually only twenty, but I don’t like to tell people that.”
I couldn’t believe it. I knew she was already an assistant manager of the store where she worked during the day, and that she’d done some porn work, in addition to being a fully trained dominatrix and hardcore punk rocker. I couldn’t believe she was so tough and only twenty. I felt sheltered and inexperienced in comparison. How much work would I have to do to catch up with her?
The nights, as explained to me by Jessie, worked like this: you waited and waited, and then a client arrived, and if he wanted you, you had a session, and if he wanted someone else, you waited some more. For each six-hour shift, you would average two, sometimes three sessions. On a super good night, you might make more, but that was unusual. Two was the norm. Each session was usually an hour, although some were only thirty minutes. That left around four hours of waiting and waiting and waiting—which is what we did until two a.m.
At two, Rick, the night manager, emerged from his office. I couldn’t stop staring. All I knew from Jessie was that he was a “motorcycle dude,” and that, as part of the training, you had to perform on him and get him to have an orgasm before you’d be an officially hired. The tight black tee shirt with a white motorcycle logo emblazoned on the front was the easy part. She had, however, neglected to mention the thick glasses, the long, wispy hair (balding on top), the leather wristbands, the thick leather belt with large skull-shaped buckle, and the brown and/or missing teeth.
I had to perform on that to get approved? I couldn’t stop staring, my stomach lurching at the prospect. The last thing I wanted to see was his cock, much less witness him in mid-orgasm. I guess it made sense, though. Once you handled him, you could probably handle just about anything that came up the elevator.
Of course, as Lady had pointed out earlier, most of the men that came to the dungeon were fat and old and gross. Rick really was perfect practice…in theory. But I knew I’d never be able to do it. Forget anything else, that would send me straight into a nightmare which would probably also feature puking into my toilet bowl.
Rick, Jessie, and I hung out in the office with this girl Maria for a while. Maria was a friend of Jessie’s who was also checking out the place. She was tall, with long red hair. She had put on a short sleeve black vinyl dress that snapped up the front, revealing a bright red satin bra underneath that matched her red stilettos and the red choker around her neck. She had experience doing S&M performances but no real dominatrix work.
The four of us just kept sitting around, joined by this beautiful girl named Razor who arrived around 3:00 a.m. She was gorgeous. Super light dyed blond hair past her shoulders, big warm brown eyes, and strong, sexy features. I wondered how long she’d been doing this and what she did when she wasn’t working.
I’d been steadily impressed by all the women that I’d met that night, far more than I had been with the strippers or the other porn stars. These women all seemed smart, funny, and genuine, while still sweet, caring, and strong. Everyone went by her stage name, even when just sitting around. Jessie became Mistress Valentina. Razor, needless to say, was Mistress Razor Sharp, despite the fact that we were emphatically not in character. We talked about completely mundane topics, waiting for the next client to give someone something to do.
Mistresses Lady and Kira were the only ones in session.
The phone rang quite a few times, with the popular questions being, “Who’s working tonight?” and “What do they look like?” and “How late are you open?”
Valentina fielded most of the calls as Razor ate her dinner and Rick stood around, trying to look important but failing miserably. I started to get really restless. I knew there was no way I’d pursue this line of work. It felt pointless even sitting there now. I didn’t think I could handle it, mentally or physically. It wasn’t worth my time or the mental sacrifice. Almost even worse, there was no guarantee that I wouldn’t be sitting around for five hours, getting only one (if that) session! My impatient, time-starved personality would not be able to cope.
I knew there were nights that Valentina made $600, but I also knew there were nights when she might have only one or two sessions. And $600 didn’t feel like that much compared to what the job would entail. As long as I was giving up my time, online porn, with its solid, concentrated income and relative ease of work was much more my style.
I decided I would go, but, before I did, I figured I might as well get the most that I could out of my trip. I would stay until four. If a client didn’t arrive before then, that would be my loss. I’d still have gotten as thorough an orientation as possible, while even managing to get a couple hours of sleep before my real job the next day. But until four, I’d look at as much of the place as I could and ask as many questions as they’d let me get away with.
I started by requesting a tour.
Rick took Maria and me to one of the dungeon rooms. There were three specific ones. I got to see two of them (the third was in use), and they were incredible. If you saw them in a movie, you’d scoff at the inept, overdone Hollywood concoctions. You wouldn’t believe dungeons could be so elaborate, but here I was, standing in them, with everything at my fingertips. There was so much attention to detail, everything was so over-the-top, that it was amazing: large oriental rugs on the floor, wooden chairs with leather straps for the ankles, wrists, chest, and/or neck, numerous kinds of whips lining the brick walls. One room even had shelves with different kinds of masks: gas masks, S&M masks (think the gimp from Pulp Fiction), animal masks. I was particularly disturbed by the rooster head mask, and by the fact that Rick said the pig head mask got surprising amounts of use.
This room also had a vertical wooden locker just large enough for a man to stand up in. The door had a small window about three-quarters of the way down that could be swung open or latched closed. “For cock and ball teasing,” Rick explained.
I nodded, as if I saw that kind of thing everyday.
The rooms all had pulley systems rigged up, either with chains or thick rope.
“They all work,” Rick said. “You can suspend people, no problem.”
He sounded boastful, and I nodded again, as if that knowledge would be especially useful for me. There was one thing that looked like a trapeze but had leather wristbands at either end. I wasn’t sure I wanted to understand how it worked. The same room also had what appeared to be an oversize birdcage and an old-fashioned red leather dentist’s chair, in addition to an ominous looking black, leather covered table with straps and a metal plate at one end. The table could be adjusted so that one end would be on the floor, positioning the client at a whipping-accessible forty-five degree angle.
Then Rick took us to the medical room. It was exactly what you’d expect—extreme, appealing to every fantasy/nightmare. There was even a padded gynecological chair, with little metal footrests, a plastic curtain, a sink, and a counter full of shiny implements that fit perfectly with the black and white checkered floor. Everything gleamed, sterile and appropriately ominous.
“This room doesn’t get much use,” Rick told us. “I don’t understand why. It’s my favorite. I’d choose it if I was a client.” He paused, as if lost in thought, or perhaps just for dramatic effect. “Maybe they’re just scared.”
With that, and a macho nod, he sat on the examining table and gave us the lowdown on our potential place of employment.
He told us why it was better to work the “After Hours” shift.
“During the day, they charge $175 a session, but they split it with us 60/40. At night, they charge $150 a session, but you get to keep half.”
He told us about advertising.
“The daytime workers have to contribute $125 a month for advertising. We only ask the night workers for $80 a month. None of the girls actually have to do the advertising, but we like them to, and it usually helps them. We’ve got some girls that have tons of regulars and never do advertising, but that’s unusual. Getting your picture out there usually means people will ask for you.”
I’d asked Valentina earlier how people found out about the dungeon. I couldn’t imagine seeing it in the yellow pages. She said they ran ads in a variety of S&M and bondage magazines.
He told us what the guys wanted.
“Most of the guys don’t want heavy stuff. They tend to go for light S&M, whipping, spanking, candles, cock and ball teasing, maybe safe sex. Sometime even just company. But you’ve got to be prepared for everything. A lot of guys want dildos, and they don’t like it if you don’t do it. Some guys won’t mind if you bring in another girl to do it for a tip, but most guys want the same girl all the way through. I’ve got a few girls that won’t do insertion. I’m not looking to hire anymore.”
He paused and looked at both of us, as if waiting for our reply, but we didn’t say anything. He looked back at the floor and told us about the hours.
“We’re open Monday through Friday night. I’m looking for girls who will work at least three nights a week. Less than that, and it’s hard to build up regulars. New girls get a lot of clients cause they’re new, but you’ve got be able to hold onto them.”
There was another meaningful pause. Even if I could handle the work, my future as an employee at this dungeon had just been indefinitely postponed. There was no way I could handle three midnight to six a.m. shifts on top of my work at the museum, and there was no way I would make this line of work my real job.
Finally, a line had been drawn between me and the New York Sex Industry. I was startled by how relieved I felt. I could turn this job down without feeling like it was because of fear.
But I let Rick tell us about the money.
“You usually average two sessions a night, on a good night, three. Sometimes more, but not often. Occasionally, a client will pay for two mistresses at once. Then they pay us $250, but you girls only get $70 each, since you don’t have to work as hard.”
Maria and I blinked.
“I don’t know about that!” Maria exclaimed, laughing.
Rick just looked at her. He tried to look stern. I couldn’t stop thinking about his bad teeth.
“That doesn’t happen that often. It’s usually good money here,” he continued. “You might have a bad night every once in a while, but you rarely have a bad week. Some tips are really high, but you can definitely make more money stripping. I try not to hire strippers because they have higher economic expectations.”
He paused again. I couldn’t stop staring at his teeth. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with them. It was too dark in his mouth to be sure. I also couldn’t understand why a girl would rather do domination work than strip. Stripping seemed easier and a hell of a lot more lucrative.
He talked about Guiliani.
“Some guys come in with really specific instructions. These guys are easy. Some will even prepare elaborate scenarios. These are the easiest. You don’t even have to think. I used to keep files on all the regulars—what they liked and didn’t like—but I’ve got to be a lot more careful now because of Giuliani. He’s made it a mission to close us down. We’ve never been busted, but we gotta be careful. S&M is legal in New York State, so there’s nothing he can do about that. But there are lots of nuances.”
Rick looked up from the floor and straight at Maria and me. “Dildo insertion is illegal. If a guy comes and he looks like a cop, we refuse. If he’s new, and we’re not sure, then you make him put it in first. If he does, chances are good he’s not a cop. I’ll bet that any cop’s not going to testify in court, in front of all his buddies, that he shoved a dildo up his ass. And if we didn’t do that kind of thing here, guys would walk. They’d go to another dungeon. We wouldn’t be able to pay the rent. So we take our chances.”
Rick looked very serious. I figured that he expected both Maria and me to become skilled at dildo insertion. I didn’t think this was the best time to break the news that I had no intention of coming back, much less inserting a dildo.
“Women and sex isn’t an issue,” he continued, in his dramatic lecture style. “We never get women alone. They’ll call and make appointments, but they always show up as a couple. Sometimes she’ll want to watch, sometimes he will. Sometimes you’ll do both. With two girls, it quickly becomes sexual. That’s okay. I don’t think they’d send a female cop, so don’t worry about that.”
He talked about coming.
“Most guys come. Some don’t. They might feel they’re betraying their girlfriend or wife if they do. Their mistress might have sent them and told them not to come. Maybe they think they’re not good enough to come in front of you, and they’re going to go home to jerk off. They usually do, though. But if they paid for an hour, and they come after ten minutes, the session’s not over, unless they want to leave. Maybe they want more. Maybe they just want to talk. Some guys come because they’re lonely. It’s your job to figure out what they want.”
He talked about submissives.
“Usually the men are submissives. Obviously. Sometimes, though, the guy will want you to be one. That’s really up to you. It doesn’t happen very often. If it does, we’ve got strict rules. Some light whipping is okay, but no marks are allowed. A red mark that fades after ten minutes is okay, but nothing more intense than that. Some guys also like to do ‘switchables.’ That means that maybe you’ll be submissive at first and then, about halfway through, you flip and you discipline him. Some girls do that, some don’t. Again, it’s up to you.”
He paused, studied the floor for a minute, and then our orientation speech ended. He told us to stick around and sit in on a session. Maria said she was planning on it. Taking this as my cue, I said I was actually going to be leaving, but that I’d come back another night to sit in on a session. This was obviously a lie, but it seemed easier that way.
Rick was surprised but said that was okay. We went back to the office, and I put on my incognito street clothes. I told Valentina that I had to meet some people, but that I’d come back another night to help her with a session.
I wondered how long she’d be waiting that night before a client showed. I said goodbye to Rick and Razor, and Valentina walked me to the elevator.
“Hey, before you leave,” Valentina said, “you’ve got to see the Bastille Room.”
We knocked on the door to see if anyone was inside. Kira poked her head out the door. Kira was Asian, with a rough version of the Uma Thurman/Pulp Fiction haircut. I couldn’t tell how old she was, but she seemed to be the oldest one there. She had a small gray plastic suitcase, like the cases that power drills come in, filled with menacing stainless steel tools, some with clamps, some with sharp blades, some with serrated edges. Out of session, she, like all the other girls, had been really cute and nice and funny, complaining about how much effort some men were. But I had a feeling she could be pretty scary in a session.
The girls exuded so much warmth around each other, I really wondered how they managed to shut it off when they were working, and if many of them had functioning relationships with male significant others while being good at their jobs. I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it, shifting from one extreme to the other, loving men while also seeing them in this context.
I knew my brief experience stripping had changed the way I dealt with men. It changed the way I saw them, and it changed the way I saw them look at me. You never really see men the same way after you watch them, barely men at all, shoveling dollar bills at you for split second glimpses at your pussy, and this place was so much more intense.
I wondered if the girls could separate the two worlds. Jessie had mentioned dreams. I wanted to ask her how intense those got and how long they lasted. I felt like I’d get dreams just by hanging out in the rooms, and then to actually make men scream and cry and beg, surrounded by all that leather and heavy wood, that would be too much for my fragile psyche. There was something so surreal and twisted, so extreme, about the whole place. Performing torture on hairy, overweight men inside it would only make my issues worse.
The Bastille Room was incredible. There was a huge full-size black leather mattress on top of a platform. Tons of orange candle-shaped bulbs were tastefully lit throughout the room. A large table with straps and two wheels sat at one end. I wasn’t quite sure what that was for, unless it was some sort of Spanish Inquisition-esque stretching device. Whips and chains and hooks were screwed into the walls, which, in turn, were covered with mirrors from floor to ceiling. Plush red carpeting ran from wall to wall.
There was a small chair in one of the corners, the kind you had in school, where the desk and the chair were one piece. It didn’t really fit in with the rest of the room, but seemed to belong with the chalkboard that was leaning up against a different wall. Scrawled on the chalkboard was the message: “I will do whatever my mistress wants.”
The sensory deprivation room was off of this one. I poked my head in there, too. It was small, and the walls were covered with soundproof padding. There was a full body leather restraint outfit hung neatly on its wall. A window allowed viewing into the Bastille room and vice versa. Like the other dungeons, the sensory deprivation room also allowed for full suspension.
Kira apologized for the mess and for the urine smell. “He wanted a golden shower. Sorry it’s kind of stinky.”
I laughed. There was something amazing about the total detachment from everyday life.
Some of his urine was in a small paper cup. While Kira was cleaning up the tools, latex gloves, paper towels, and the rest of her equipment, I took the opportunity to find out more about her.
“I’ve been working as a dominatrix for four years. Two years at this place. Here’s the best money, the best rooms, the best people. It’s really easy. The only time it gets hard is when they say ‘Do what you want,’ but they don’t actually want you to do what they want. They want you to guess what they want. That gets annoying. ‘No, not that,’ ‘Do something else,’ ‘I don’t like that,’ and then you stop being in control. Other than that, it’s easy.”
I asked about her tools.
“Cliff tells people I’m a medical expert.” She laughed. “I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t really use most of this stuff. I brought it all tonight because one of my regulars asked me to.”
Lady came in to let us know that her client was on his way in. We slipped into the medical room so he wouldn’t see us as he walked by. After they went in and closed the door, I took the elevator back to the street.
I wondered how much longer Valentina would have to wait for a client. Thank god, I didn’t have to be in there a second longer. For some reason, I was glad to have the night behind me. I got some food at a local deli and made my way to the subway and then home.