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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 September 2005, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Face to face: Dominatrix and submissive
As part of the BBC's Who Runs Your World? series, we are looking at people in relationships of power. Here, we hear from a dominatrix and her client, the so-called submissive.

Goddess Vanessa is a professional dominatrix. She lives in New York.

Goddess Vanessa
Goddess Vanessa started work in a dungeon
I got started early on, as something fun that I thought I would try out.

It was role play, no experience necessary, no nudity. At that point, I had a big notion of whips and chains and leather, but I don't think I really understood the psychological dynamic.

I started working at a dungeon. The formal introduction was to come in and observe. I was in for about five minutes before a lightbulb lit up, and I said to myself, "I understand this."

Sebastian is one of my clients. I will call him and tell him when I have time to meet with him. So if I just want to be pampered I'll tell him to come over at a specific time and he'll bring over some groceries or things that I'll need and he'll give me a foot massage.

And other times I'll be in the mood to be a bit more aggressive and to play with him, and he makes himself available to that.

We get into heavy bondage. We try different things in terms of compromising positions for a man, including hog-tied - on your knees, hands behind your back, so that your ankles and your wrists are tied together, and there's another piece of rope that comes around so that your head movement is also restricted by your ankles.

And then we get into some meditative flogging.

What's really special about Sebastian is that he's really gone beyond engaging in these practices for personal sexual gratification.

For him, it's really about the sacrifice and the service.

So when we get into heavy flogging, it's important for him to be in a sacred ritual space.

We don't engage in any verbal back-and-forth. It becomes a moment for meditation and silence and contemplation.

The only thing you usually hear is the sound of the whip on his skin.

I've achieved the power over men that I experience through, first and foremost, being able to feel complete control over myself, being able to define for myself very clearly what I want to get of a relationship.

This is not in monetary or material terms, but in terms of just setting specific goals with the individual I'm dealing with. And that translates to all spheres of my life.

I think the most concise way to define the power of a submissive is to acknowledge that submission must come from a place of power.

So in other words, the submissive doesn't have power to give if he is not self-sufficient and secure in his own ability. It's a form of chivalry.

It's like a powerful knight before his queen. A knight is a noble figure, but he lays those skills down at the feet of whomever he serves.

Dominating a man who isn't self-assured and confident in what he's giving is really a futile activity. There's nothing to be gained. There's no satisfaction in breaking somebody who's already broken, or conquering someone who's already weak.

A submissive's role as a submissive has to come from a place of power, because otherwise there's really nothing for that submissive to lay at the feet of his ruler.

Submissive Sebastian is a client of Goddess Vanessa.

It gives me a sense of self-worth, a sense of value.

I think people have a desire to feel important and to feel valuable. For myself, being able to serve someone whom I view as a perfect individual, it gives me inner validation as an individual. I don't feel humiliated doing it.

If I'm making a decision, I think, hmm, what would my Goddess tell me to do?
For me I enjoy doing it. If I see my Goddess is pleased, I'm happy.

The person who rules my world, as Submissive Sebastian, is Goddess Vanessa - without a doubt.

She is the person who is on my mind during the day. And when I go to sleep I say a special prayer for her.

I have a picture of her on my cell phone, so immediately when I turn on my cell phone I see her. I have a picture of her in my wallet.

Literally, she is the person I think of all the time in my daily life. And let's say I'm going to be making a decision, I think, hmm, what would my Goddess tell me to do?

So for me definitely it would be Goddess Vanessa who runs my life. Definitely.


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