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Remembrance of New York City dungeons past…

23 Jun

Folks were recently chatting on Twitter about the differences between the online femdom scene of today and the old days, back when dungeons and dommes had to be sought out in a more stealthy manner, when most mistresses made their money by doing real-time sessions rather than having the option of concentrating on filming clips and getting financial tributes via the Internet.

My British artist colleague Sardax just did an excellent post about seeking femdom experiences over in England back in the pre-Internet days. You can find it here.

For me, back in the 70s through the early 2000s, a femdom experience (and they were always commercial ones for me) could first start with a perusal of SCREW newspaper, which featured classified ads that tempted me into the ladies’ lairs. (Yes, I know the word “lair” is a melodramatic one, but that’s what they felt like to me in my nervous anticipation of my forays therein.)

 

 

Later I discovered the fetish-oriented femdom tabloids like DOMINANT MYSTIQUE and THE VAULT, which more specifically showcased the BDSM scene, often with large, tantalizing, and beautifully done photographs. I also looked at femdom magazines which very much got me into the mood for a real-time experience.

I never had these encounters when I was in an intimate relationship with someone, though. I kept them separate. There was a wide chasm between my attempts to have a “vanilla” existence and my expeditions into the kink world.


Once I was unattached again and decided to visit a mistress, it was then a matter of finding a phone booth from where I could call anonymously to get more information about her (nobody used the term “domme” then, as far as I knew) and where, approximately, to go for the scene and how much it would cost. I was paranoid about calling some total stranger from my home phone (there was still no *69 yet to block one’s own number); and of course there were no cellphones decades ago.

Once an appointment was agreed upon, the actual location of the dungeon or private studio would only be given to a first time visitor right before coming for the session, usually by calling the dungeon from a specified phone booth across the street, where the mistress could perhaps see you on the street from a window and, presumably, size you up. Once in the dungeon or studio, you’d get undressed, hand over the fee (over the years from mostly the 1980s to the early 2000s spanning $100-200, plus a tip afterward), then discuss the scene with the mistress and get down to it. It’s been quite a few years since I last went to a pro-domme, but that’s basically the routine that I recall following.

In the years afterward, I became more comfortable discussing some of my submissive fantasies with the dancers in strip clubs, and began to get my femdom thrills during the private $20-per-song dances instead. I also had some erotic femdom roleplay in the 80s and 90s in the “one-on-one” booths in Times Square, where the customer would be on one side, the performer on the other, and you’d watch her through glass and talk to her via a telephone. Actually, those were pretty hot experiences and I should really write an entire post about them sometime. Economical, too. Those booths used to cost only about $1 a minute (designed to use as tokens the one dollar coins with the image of feminist Susan B. Anthony on them). Since the scenes usually took about ten-fifteen minutes, the cost was around $20-$25, including a ten dollar tip. Not trying to reduce things to dollars and cents, but sex history is also economic history…

Anyway, going to professional dominatrices in dungeons was a mixed bag for me. As I came to realize, looking back over the years, I never enjoyed paying for erotic experiences very much; I did it (repeatedly, of course) because I was young, horny, and the women were so physically alluring and tantalizing to me (and usually much more glamorously attractive than those I could meet in my day-to-day life); but there was no way I could rationalize the ego-deflation I felt by being a “trick” —as I called myself in the spirit of being “realistic” about what I was actually doing.

You see, I never thought of myself as a “client” of a dominatrix but always as a “john.” I grew up in a conservative Midwest Jewish background (not overly religious, but sexually and psychologically uptight) and my erotic adventurousness was badly tempered by feelings of shame and guilt that I was not living up to the image of “being a good boy” with which I was indoctrinated. So I always felt there was something “wrong” with me because I had to “pay for it”–not to mention that I was paying for female domination (!), which was really considered beyond the pale thirty, forty years ago. I went to therapy for nine years and one of the topics I always brought up was how I could act more “normal.” Didn’t happen. 😉

Now, I’m not making a value judgment about pay-for-play; in fact I am grateful for the encounters which relieved many a lonely hour; and I believe in sex work decriminalization. I am simply expressing here what I felt about my personal experiences with it. So even though I did have fun now and then, the femdom sessions I had in dungeons or, earlier, New York’s apartment brothels and massage parlors, seemed to have very little resonance in my imagination or fantasies. Instead, I mostly fantasized about women whose pictures I saw in magazines, or in videos. I also liked written erotica; art (by everyone from Stanton to Bilbrew to Harukawa to Sardax); short stories; and audio files by femdom erotica creators ranging from Keri Pentauk (of WHAP Magazine fame) to Goddess Lycia; still do. Yes, I have always been partial to the erotic world stimulated between my two ears.

Some of the best femdom experiences I ever had in real-time, real-life, were with a beautiful and very intelligent Asian-American stripper in the early 2000s who came to understand my fantasies. In a friendly yet professional way, she asked me what I liked and then indulged those preferences in verbal roleplay while she gave me lapdances in a midtown club. I did not feel paying for lapdances or drinks was as hurtful to my wobbly self-esteem as going to dominatrices or, earlier, to those apartment brothels where I first explored some of my fetish and submissive desires; so for quite a few years the strip clubs became my venue of choice to explore my submissiveness. I only really stopped when the sex magazine business in which I worked began to crumble in the wake of the Internet, and my income declined. Simply, I could no longer afford the indulgence of spending money on twenty-dollar lapdances or on the dancers’ expensive drinks.

Often when I left a dungeon I would feel glad that I had gone; it was cathartic and I usually enjoyed the encounter with the mistress. Now and then a session wouldn’t be good, but generally the ladies were friendly and decent even if the chemistry was lacking in our session. But being playfully dominated in the strip club setting became more enjoyable for me, partly because I could spend less and I ended up preferring that. Also, in the strip club, I felt as if my desires were more integrated with the rest of my life—I just walked in, hung out for awhile, and left— whereas when I went to a pro-domme or a dungeon (or to vanilla hookers before that), I felt as if I were going into another, faraway zone (calling from a certain phone booth, etc.) and it was more stressful to me.

On trips to dungeons I only even took the bare minimum of identification in my wallet in case I was somehow going to be robbed during the session (which had happened to me in the 70s once). Maybe that was paranoid of me, but I thought I was being prudent too. And, even if the places were friendly and well-run, for me trips to dungeons or studios felt secretive and shameful; and, after I went to a couple of places that did not seem any too clean (including one very famous dungeon), possibly not all that hygienic either. And again, I don’t mean to sound judgmental; I am just describing my probably over-neurotic feelings for the sake of honesty and a sex history perspective. Looking back, I think I was overly fastidious—but returning to the subject of my background, I grew up with hypochondria and “germ-consciousness” in my family life. It’s a wonder, in fact, that I even could have even started going to hookers or mistresses at all, given my hang-ups; but one can never underestimate the horniness of the young, especially when gorgeous streetwalkers in hot pants and platform heels patrolled Eighth Avenue in its last fabled years of rich raunchiness, the ladies flaunting their wares to the lonely, the throbbing, and the susceptible.

I noticed in Sardax’s piece on this topic of bygone days (again, you can find that here)  that he discussed the idea of meeting people through contact ads. That was something I never tried to do; I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of writing a letter to a stranger about the fantasies of sexual submission I felt so ambivalent about. That’s undoubtedly why I just focused on commercial transactions with professional dominatrices. I did once go to a meeting of The Eulenspiegel Society, the well-known BDSM group, thinking perhaps I could meet a mistress that way; but I couldn’t get into joining or participating, I was still too unaccepting of my feelings and still wishing I could be “vanilla.”

This post was difficult for me to complete. I’ve been working on it since March 2019 and only finished it because Sardax’s post inspired me to finally get it done. I wish I could have struck a lighter tone, as he did. Anyway, forgive me if I went off on personal tangents possibly unrelated to the topic, but I decided to leave them in to give you a sense of what it was like for me, one person, to deal with the fulfillment of these submissive desires in the days before the easier-to-access pervy plenitude on the Worldwide Web.

 

 

 

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3 responses to “Remembrance of New York City dungeons past…

  1. Charles Ryavec

    April 7, 2022 at 6:29 pm

    I recall the tobacco shop I was in when I saw the pulp cover: Strange Hungers. (About 1960) I couldn’t legally buy tobacco, but I knew in one corner of the shop were the very peculiar books I could buy. They were legal. At least I could put my money on the counter and take them home.

     
    • irvoneil

      April 8, 2022 at 1:02 pm

      Wow, Strange Hungers, that’s with the classic Stanton cover, if I recall correctly! I too haunted the book racks just a few years later, but they were at the local drugstore. They didn’t sell the fetish novels but the tawdry Midwood books and even the nurse romance novels, with sexy dolls in their starched white uniforms and caps on the cover, caught my eye. The drugstore’s porter always looked at me as if I were going to steal a book, which annoyed me! I never stole and I bought quite a few.

       

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