‘The World Turned Upside Down’: Emotional Labor and the Professional Dominatrix

The professional dominatrix, who has been underrepresented in the literature on sex work, complicates our understanding of the emotional labour of sex work. The professional dominatrix is paid by clients to perform the role of the dominant in scenarios involving bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadomasochism, and ‘fetishism.’ Unlike other sex workers, who must often feign interest and act flirtatiously in order to make clients feel desired, the dominatrix is asked, at times, to express emotional displays such as indifference or displeasure. At the same time, our analysis of in-depth interviews, published memoirs, and blogs reveals multifaceted and dynamic constructions of emotional labour that would typically be considered contradictory and unpredictable from the point of view of normative emotional displays in work. While her job is defined by dominance and can at times involve aggression, compassionate and care-taking traits are perhaps just as important in defining her emotional labour. In contrast to research that poses dichotomous models of gender and emotional labour, we present a more fluid paradigm that resists simplistic connections between gender, emotions, and work.

2015. Sexualities 18(4): 438-458. With Dina Pinsky.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1363460714550904