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Thursday
Aug042011

Dominatrix Melissa Febos: Whip Smart, Serving Sex Slaves

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As a little girl, Melissa Febos was a voracious reader, consumed by the fantastical world of the Chronicles of Narnia and the rebellious spirit of Catcher in the Rye.

But by the time she was 19, she was tapping into both fantasy and rebellion, working in a high-class "dungeon" in midtown Manhattan as a dominatrix, bringing men to their knees in sexually submissive role-play games.

In her new memoir, Whip Smart: The True Story of a Secret Life, Febos describes her life as a "domme," numbing herself with drugs and playing out the sexual fantasies of the men with switches, restraints and verbal abuse.

She began her career while getting an English degree in New York City, introduced by another college student who lived in her apartment building. Febos was able to overcome her addiction to an array of drugs -- heroin, cocaine and alcohol -- but giving up the control and desire from her subjects was hard to let go.

Surprisingly, these S&M parlors are legal, although how they describe their operations while seeking licensing is "murky," according to Febos, who said many of her clients were police.

"No sex happens there. ... It's much more of an acting job," she said. "There is an erotic interest for the clients, but it's much more of a psychological than a physical service."

"People tend to assume there was some dark secret buried in the family or there was some abuse going on," she said. "I was never spanked, not even once."

But it was Febos who did the spanking in the 12-room dungeon where she controlled her slaves, who paid her up to $500 a day for humiliation and pain. Later, working as a freelancer, she pulled in that much in an hour.

Febos began on the day shift -- 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. -- catering to "mostly married fathers," who were, "nearly all professionally successful," who wanted someone else to take control for an hour of their day.

After Febos sought help to rid her life of drugs, the dominatrix work that once gave her a sense of feminist empowerment began to feel degrading and dishonest.

But today, Febos teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and is working on a novel about the complexities of female friendship. She said her students are "admiring and respectful, and also quite shy" about the subject of her graphic memoir.

Febos disagrees with critics who say that her book glamorizes the business of S&M and that being a sex worker made her a better person.

"My message is of brave open-mindedness to other people's experiences," she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio