Notes from a Miami dominatrix

Miami, I discovered, was a city in economic free fall. Everywhere there were signs: the stalled construction sites; the homeless camped out on cardboard boxes in deserted parking lots next to half-vacant apartment buildings; the mostly empty high-end fashion stores; the down-on-their-luck party girls prowling the clubs, batting fake eyelashes in search of the dwindling population of SoBe playboys. On Washington Avenue, the only places doing real business were tattoo parlors and pizza joints.

Desperate for money to pay the bills, I resorted to the Adult Gigs section of Craigslist, the place to go for those in dire need of quick cash. I ignored the obvious cons — such as the posts seeking women for X-rated web cam sessions that demanded a social security number. Then there were the creeps: One man was looking for "young, attractive females to wrestle" and offering $1,000 per day. I replied, citing my five years as a trained martial artist. He wrote back and said I was too qualified and too old. But if I knew any girls under age 18 who were willing to wrestle him and his friends in the nude at his private residence, I should send them over. He would give me a finder's fee. I replied that it sounded more like a gangbang than a wrestling match, and he was lucky I didn't call the police.

Another post was titled "Submissive Assistant to Make Executive Salary." A man claiming to be a CEO of a midsize company on Brickell wanted to hire a secretary. Duties included not only typing and filing but also being spanked when no one else was in the office. The starting pay was $85,000. We set up a meeting, but I pulled out at the last minute when he asked whether I would also mind anal intercourse.

One man I met through Craigslist was a stubby Asian in his 40s who said he was a photographer for a tasteful erotic magazine similar to Playboy that was headquartered in North Korea. North Korea has skin mags? I remember thinking. But I was seduced by the $12,000 offered for a day's work. I realized I was being scammed when he took me not to a professional photo studio but to a shabby motel with stained carpets in Dadeland South. He asked me to strip for test shots and then tried to finger me. I pushed him away and told him to drive me back to the Metrorail right away. Then I threatened to call the cops, and the phony photographer obliged.

Finally, I found a posting that seemed semilegitimate: "Extras Wanted Now 4 Club Scene Shoot. WHITE/LATINA FEMALES ONLY! No Sex. No Nude. Just watching and being comfortable around Sexual activitys."

The company was recruiting models for a Girls Gone Wild-style video. Or so it claimed. For $500, all I had to do was flash my boobs. Only when I arrived at the studio in a nondescript two-story office building near Miami International Airport did I realize I would need to do more to earn the money. It was actually a porn shoot. And there was a price list. Bare your chest for $100. A hand job earned $50 more. There was $250 to get down on your knees and blow.

When the shoot began, a male stripper dressed like Indiana Jones — complete with pith helmet and whip but sans trousers — jumped on top of me. When he began shaking his rear in my face, I — well — let's just say I assaulted his nether region. He yelped like a scolded puppy, which disrupted the whole shoot. That put an end to my porn career. I was blackballed by the industry.

I was running out of options and growing tired of Miami. Far from being the glamorous city of legend, it seemed more like a mecca for scammers, liars, and sleazebags. I felt like I couldn't trust anyone.

Then I decided to take control of my destiny. I had a friend who worked as a dominatrix in New York. She had described a lifestyle rife with adventure and money. So I did a Google search for dommes in South Florida and found Lady Regina, owner of a well-established dungeon called Command Performance in Pompano Beach. She put me in touch with a woman who owned a dungeon in Miami and was looking to hire new girls.

The fetish scene attracted me for several reasons. First, I had no problem inflicting pain on another human as long as it was consensual. It sounded like fun, certainly more than bagging groceries at Publix. Another was the money: Though Miami's subculture is relatively small, I had heard you could earn as much as $250 an hour, with 50 percent going to the dungeon owner.

But my main reason was personal. I've always been kinky, ever since as a 5-year-old kindergartner I forced classmates to strip down to their underwear, locked them in the bathroom, and made them kiss each other. I was a strange child. Everybody said so. Boys in my neighborhood in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, would run crying across the street to avoid me. My father was a strict Russian, and like all men of this ilk, he believed in corporal punishment to control wayward children. But when I was 6 years old, my mother put a stop to that. She had noticed me squirming on his lap as he spanked me with a hairbrush. I was enjoying it. After that, my parents' penalties changed to locking me in the bedroom and making me read books.

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