Centuries of Whips, Chains, and Spankings: Snow Mercy Talks About the History of the Dominatrix

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The history of sex is fascinating precisely because so little of it is written down. We may know where George Washington was born and where he died, but we have little idea of what he liked to do in bed, or what he would have liked to do. For the most part, anyone who liked sex that wasn’t heterosexual ten-toes-up-ten-toes-down style has tried to avoid letting the rest of the world learn too much about it.

But difficult isn’t impossible, and this weekend, Snow Mercy comes to Stockroom University to teach some of that history. In The History of the Dominatrix, Snow is going to look at dominant women throughout the last 500 years. She gave us a little preview of the material that she’s going to cover:


 

What are you going to cover in this class?

It’s gonna be a history of female dominants. I take a look back through art and history to early depictions of dominatrixes and then I’m going to be focusing a lot of attention on the 1600s through the 1900s, and some of the documented cases of professional dominant women. Then I’m going to spend some time talking about the history of some of the dungeons in Los Angeles and the women who worked there. I know that I’m going to talk a lot about The Dominion because it’s where I work, so it was easier for me to get a lot of information about it. So I have some really never-before-seen-in-public photographs.

What kind of photographs do you have that haven’t been seen?

I have some very candid photographs of people that worked at The Dominion and some photographs of some parties and other pictures that depict the history of The Dominion. They’re literally photographs from somebody’s photo album who’s never shared them with anybody. They’re not on the Internet or anywhere, so I’m pretty excited.

A lot of this is based on my own research. I’ve actually been interviewing people. I just went to New York back in late September and got some information through calling people and getting pictures from them. I think it’ll be fun and interesting.

Kitty Fisher and Parrot, by Joshua Reynolds (1763-4)

Kitty Fisher and Parrot, by Joshua Reynolds (1763-4)

Before talking about all the modern dungeons, I’d like to hear a little more about the early stuff you were talking about. You say that you go back to the 1600s? What kind of dominant women do you find in those historical periods?

There was a woman named Kitty Fisher, and she was a famous disciplinarian/courtesan — a lot of these women started as courtesans who would offer discipline. She actually did very well for herself. She was making a good living. She did so well that she would hire oil painters to paint her and she would run ads. She became very famous among the aristocrats and the wealthy.

She was a disciplinarian. The word “dominatrix” didn’t show up until later, until the 1900s. They were considered disciplinarians or governesses or a lot of them were just straight-on prostitutes who happened to also be skilled in domination.

How similar were the images and techniques they used throughout history? How has domination changed over the years?

The Berkley Horse, supposedly designed by Theresa Berkley in 1828.

The Berkley Horse, designed by Theresa Berkley in 1828.

Over time, you see that there’s a lot more contraptions being used, a lot more complicated equipment and furniture. Before, you would just use domestic things. There was this new piece of furniture called the Berkley Horse; I show a picture of it in my talk. The Berkley Horse was invented by Theresa Berkley. It’s like a spanking horse, but you’re standing up at an angle. That was one of the big inventions.

Later on in the 1960s is when you start to see women wearing catsuits. This mistress in England was friends with a leather-maker who started making her these catsuits. That’s when you start to see these really nice leather catsuits. She had a head-to-toe catsuit, including a mask, that she would wear and that’s something that’s fairly new. That and all of the latex fashions are fairly new.

Back in the day, the women would mostly wear things like Victorian kind of lingerie and corsets. It was definitely less specialized. It was more about spanking and flogging.

A lot of this history is really hard to dig up just because it was so taboo and nobody really wrote about it, so a lot of the stuff that I talk about is actually taken from men’s diaries where they talked about the mistresses that they would visit. Also, some of the information I got is from letters that people wrote to each other.

There was a doctor, a German doctor, who wrote a book about flogging — I think in the late 1500s — he prescribed flogging for impotence. He said that if you got flogged, it would help you get an erection. So some of these guys were actually seeing women who flogged because they thought it would help cure their impotence.

Oh, wow.

Yeah, because it helps stimulate the blood. And so, people were using that as an excuse to get flogged. They thought it would help them with their erectile dysfunction.

Snow Mercy PortraitWhat have you found out about the various houses of domination that you’ve researched?

Most of the early ones in the 1970s were owned by men. And a lot of the men didn’t take dominant women seriously. They just kind of looked at dominant women as submissives pretending to be dommes. They never really respected them.

Lady Laura opened up the first woman-owned and operated dungeon, The Dominion. One dungeon owner was actually arrested for trying to set fire to it.

In the past 30 years or so, we’ve gotten more open about BDSM and women in particular have been able to be more openly sexual. What’s the history of the dominatrix like in the modern era? How have things changed since we’ve gotten more open?

Well now, you see more of the celebrity dominatrixes, you see more documentation, you see women who are more out; it’s more accessible. There’s a lot more. We’re saturated. The professional dominatrix market is saturated. It used to be much harder to find somebody and connect with them.


 

The History of the Dominatrix with Snow Mercy

Saturday, November 21st, 2015
2:00pm-5:00pm
2807 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
$10 Admission

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