Sex & Gender

Lifestyle Dominants and Professional Dominants: Can't We All Just Get Along

Don't know which hand to hold the whip in? Get sex, love, relationship advice from Mistress Lera by emailing [email protected]. Read more about Mistress Lera at Notes From a Miami Dominatrix.

Dear Mistress Lera,

I heard the terms "lifestyle domme" and "professional domme" one too many times, especially on the fem- domme websites. My question is what the hell is the difference? You kinky folk are so confusing with your terms. Please explain the difference to a simpleton like me.


Please Enlighten Me

Dear PEM,

You're not the only one confused. In the BDSM community people love to rank people and divide them into groups or leather families. More than anything, kinky folk love to rank tops. You know, because there has got to be names to identify dommes. As a result terms like  "lifestyle dominant " and "professional dominant" were created. I mean c'mon. There has got to be a caste system, ya know? Otherwise there's lots of confusion, and confusion creates panic, which doesn't always lay well with the order of the community. Now let me explain the difference and how those two terms can be helpful or used in a completely and totally insulting way.

A professional dominant is a man or  a woman who is involved in BDSM for money. Bottoms hire them to fulfill their kinky fantasies and needs. At times, it's all about cash with a professional top. Moreover, pro-dommes, as any sex worker would, follow the law so during a session they would limit the sexual contact with their bottom. Now this is where it can get confusing. Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, good professional dominants are also lifestyle dominants. Not only do they have paying submissives who they cater to 9-5, but they also have bottoms that they play with for pleasure and absolutely pro-bono.

Lifestyle dominants are people who live the lifestyle 24/7. It's all about BDSM for them. They are involved heavily in the community, belong to leather families, and are masters of up to 20 people on They work their asses off to make the BDSM community a better and happier place. They go to meetings that are knowns as munches and they love some safe, sane kinky play at the fetish parties.

I am glad the BDSM community has some structure, but at times it can feel like lifestyle dominants thumb their noses  down on professional dominants. Maybe it's just me, but that's the feeling that I get when I interact with some lifestyle tops.

Also, whenever I am on a fetish web site and I see someone stating that they are lifestyle dominant or a pro dominant. George Orwell's Animal Farm comes to mind: "We are all equal, but some of us are more equal than others." I have also heard lifestyle dominants hurl insults at professional dominants. "You're just a pro-dom. You don't know anything about BDSM. We live a kinky lifestyle, we know better."

What happened to good ol' tems such as "top" and "bottom"? Is it really necessary  to create such a strict caste system? We're either dominant or submissive. Stop discriminating against your own. End of story.

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Lera Gavin