My afternoon with a lovely Dominatrix

Lady Amber on the right

A year ago I finished filming ‘Mums Make Porn‘ which was screened on Channel 4 earlier this year. It became hugely successful and is still being shown around the world. It touched my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined but one thing has remained a constant, I maintain as much zero interest in the adult entertainment industry as I did before the show.

This is from the viewpoint of not being or wanting to be a consumer of Porn. I still, though, maintain a critical feminist stance of a billion dollar industry that subjugates women for so-called entertainment purposes.

Being in a reality TV show was a life-changing experience. It consumes your days and nights. You worry about how you look, what you are going to say, what you have said and what you will come across like in the finished product. All of this doesn’t take into account how the immersive experience of being dunked in a world that is outside your normal changes your perspectives.

I was on ‘This Morning’ in March with Sarah Pritchard

I was catapulted into the world of Porn and saw enough nudity to last me a lifetime. Having been brought up in a strict Asian setting where any show of flesh was considered to be the road to hell, it made me question the world of sex work. What fascinated me were the motivations and privates lives of the actors involved in the sex industry.

When the cameras stopped rolling, they would tell me about their partners, children and the stigma that they faced. Some of them kept their work a secret. Others were more open with family and friends. Some were, both, open and defensive. What was clear was their common experience of being ‘othered’ for the work that they do. In a modern world where the mantra of ‘do what you want’ or ‘do as you please’ is the accompanying chorus to encouraging people to be self liberated then why are sex workers still treated with disdain?

It is the ‘Pamela Anderson’ and ‘Kim Kardashian’ theory, as I personally call it. Mention their names and people immediately react in a rather high handed manner along the lines of, ‘false’, ‘fake’ or ‘what has she ever done?’ Both women are hugely influential in the world of show business and are worth millions. I can only but conclude that it is their ‘shy’ fans i.e people who won’t admit to liking them who must make up a mega amount of their fan base if no one is actually admitting to liking them.

Similarly, the UK is the second highest country in terms of porn viewing figures but sex workers face much trolling, vitriol and abuse.

My association with Lady Amber or Mistress Leather Amber, which is her other name, arose when I was tweeting while watching ‘Spank Me Harder’ Personal insults were being flung at the workers featured on the show from disapproving Mr and Ms Public who were, nevertheless, watching it. It was a paradox of multitude proportions which involved fire and brimstone levels of judgement, hypocrisy and slights against the looks and lifestyle choices of the ladies involved. Somewhere in that display of moral rage people had forgotten that these sex workers were human too. Lady Amber would later tell me that she regularly gets abuse from men and women.

Lady Amber was featured on the show. She was defending her line of work by using the overriding message of ‘consent’. People who visit a dominatrix consent to being hit and agree on a level of pain beforehand.

We messaged each other and so began a friendship of an unlikely pair of people. The anti-porn mum and a dominatrix. After messaging each other for a while Lady Amber invited me to spend an afternoon with her at a BDSM market in October. My comfort zone can be so wide sometimes that I could ride horses in it but I accepted the invitation.

Lady Amber introduced me to a world which I had never even been within sniffing distance of before. I felt like an outsider even though I love markets. For scented candles think torture candles. People pay to have hot wax dripped on them as opposed to lighting a candle for the scent. The smell of leather permeated the air. It was a consumer’s haven with a difference. There were ultra slim canes for sale through to very thick ones. The smaller the cane the greater the hit and pain level. I have a cane at home to help me retrieve things from under the bed when things fall off the edge. Get my drift of the different worlds?

My mother would have disapproved thoroughly but she wasn’t there with me so I picked up a cane and attempted, meekly, to whack my arm with it. The place was full of people of all ages but I seemed to be the only newbie quivering at the sight of the torture candles. The thought of actively and consensually parting with one’s cash for pain seems rather contradictory in nature.

Lady Amber doesn’t see any contradictions because her male clients are choosing to give her dominance over their sexuality for their own self-gratification. “It’s a release of endorphins for them or they want to relive memories of their school days when they were spanked for being being bad boys. They could be chasing an adolescent memory. There is no black and white answer as to why men want to be physically dominated”, she tells me.

The glaring difference between us is stark. I cry at videos of puppies playing with each other. My pain threshold is so low that it would struggle to reach the top of a carpet pile. I couldn’t spank anyone even if they paid me but, on further prodding, it becomes obvious that I am applying a maternal veneer to my actions whereas Amber, who is a mother, doesn’t twin maternal feelings with being a dominatrix. ‘Being nice with my clients isn’t my thing”.

Being a dominatrix is strictly a job to her and she is single minded about the boundary between work and her personal life. Lady Amber describes herself as a ‘non-sexual mistress’. Her work is literally done at arms’ length and does not involve any personal touching. This is why being nice isn’t a feature of her job. To be fair, her clients aren’t paying for her to be nice to them. In pursuing this line of interviewing it said far more about me than her – Asian Christian leftie feminist wanting the world to be devoid of pain. Consensual pain is a difficult concept for me to grasp. It was difficult to reconcile Lady Amber’s ‘work’ with her easy going soft personality.

Cuddles are reserved for her family members. She has sons whom she is very proud of and is, in turn, proud that she hasn’t done anything to compromise them. A frank conversation took place years ago when she told them what she was doing, “this is my job. I work very hard. They won’t find any porn videos on me because I don’t have sex”. Her sons understand and are supportive.

Sex workers who are mothers think very deeply about their role as mums and how their work will affect their children. Entwined within this maternal concern is the sociological dichotomy of the pure mother who is not a sexual object and mothers as sexual beings. This was one of the controversies around ‘Mums Make Porn’ which hinged on the question of why would mums make porn which has been proven to cause harm to under-age children who watch it. Lady Amber has distanced her sexuality from her work with her ‘no touching’ unflinching rule. She calls it her ‘personal standard’ and will not go “down that route even if it pays more“. By distancing her own sexuality from her work, she draws a line between being a mother and a dominatrix.

The larger public who are ready to make judgement calls about sex workers don’t seem to grasp that even sex workers have subjective standards which ought to be respected. While I don’t like the porn industry I do accept that it is made up of individual human beings with, each, a story to tell of how they got there and why they do it. ‘Slut, slag, layabout’ are the most common terms, Lady Amber tells me, that are hurled at her.

One reason why I left ‘Mums Make Porn’ half-way through was because of the misogyny involved in the porn industry. Women are objectified and treated as sexual beings who are there to be used. Yet, I was publicly derided in social media comments for not wanting to make a porn movie. Some of this criticism came from women who called themselves feminists. I was called ‘frigid, the Madonna, uptight’. The irony is that sex workers themselves are derided for being part of the industry. Some of this criticism comes from feminists. Lady Amber and I have both been at the receiving end of anti-women slurs.

Given the conflicting reactions, it is not surprising that Lady Amber does not call herself a feminist, “feminists loathe us because they think that we exploit men. They don’t stop to think that we cannot possibly drag a 6 foot man in against his choice”. Lady Amber stands at around 5 foot and sometimes works with another dominatrix.

In a modern capitalist consumerist society which encourages entrepreneurship one wonders why Lady Amber isn’t held up as an example of female empowerment? “We are marketable products“, she tells me.

That is what sex has become. It has become a revenue generator and revenue earner in a voracious capitalist society that trades off people’s primal urges. While I am able to critique the sexual exploitation of women and girls in porn film making for mega bucks, I found it hard to criticise Lady Amber for providing a purely consensual service safe.

We had a conversation about the ‘school boy’ fantasy which involves caning. The porn industry is built off the back of sexual fantasies that involve teenage role play and often in very provocative situations like step-daughter and step-father.

According to the Daily Beast, ‘the most popular search term on the internet for pornography is “teen”—even though, in most states, adults shouldn’t be having sex with anyone under the age of 18, leaving only two legal years. This speaks volumes about human sexuality and the way that men interact with women: Why do we, as a society, harbor such a sick obsession with not just youth, but what we consider youthful women? Why is fucking an 18-year-old a fetish? Why do you want a “barely legal” girl?’

Lady Amber concedes that this is something that troubles her from time to time and the rule that she applies is to ask whether “this is something that can turn into a real thing at home?”

As we leave the BDSM market Lady Amber (photo below) tells me something that I have heard a million times through making ‘Mums Make Porn’ but is something that rings true just as many times – “sex sells“. Viewed this way, the selling of sex can be seen to be a symptom of predatory capitalism or, as The Economist called it, ‘Naked Capitalism’. Nothing is off limits. Even our moral values are compromised for capitalism.

One of the better selling online sex niches is the ‘cheating’ spouse scenario. Lady Amber has strong views on this and calls it a “grey area”. Her married clients, she says, are able to put their consciences to one side because there is no touching involved. “The rules of infidelity are grey“.

The complexities of sex work and the people involved and their motivations are what fascinates me because there is no unified view of sex work, whether it’s porn or prostitution or BDSM. The splintering of views represents the changing face of society’s moral values which are, in turn, driven by the internet. We talk about data breaches and the compromising of personal information but remain rather quiet on the way sexuality is being hijacked by capitalism.

While I admire Lady Amber for the way that she is able to keep a tight hold of her game without compromising her subjective standards, I do wonder about the millions of young women doing sex work who are being pushed to do more extreme stuff to earn a good living. Where will ‘naked capitalism’ end?

I will be doing a video interview with Lady Amber in the new year. Watch out for that.

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