Welcome to the dungeon
The invitation called for “something that makes you feel sexy and comfortable to move around in.” We were also advised to eat beforehand, so we’d have “plenty of energy for the fun that awaits.”
This was our introduction to Kink 101 – a lesson in flogging, spanking, bondage, and role play, led by professional domme Miss Nina Payne (aka Kimi Inch).
Dressed (not particlarly comfortably) in leather, lace, and heels, we found our way to a secret location in Chelsea. There was wine to loosen any inhibitions and toys to experiment with. The evening ended with my friend leading me around the room on a leash. It was fun. It was safe. And I learned how to wield a flogger like a pro.
“I used to train at different dungeons in New York City, teaching women who wanted to become dominatrixes,” says Kimi. “A lot of these women would come to my classes and they were like, ‘My girlfriends don’t want to be a professional, but they would love this.’ Or, ‘My boyfriend would love to learn about this.’ Or, ‘I want my boyfriend to learn about this so he knows what to do in the bedroom.’
“I’d be seeing highly sexualized movies like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, and the character Sharon Stone played is actually the character I modeled my dominatrix persona after – she made such an impression on me."
“So I started doing things like bachelorette parties and girl gatherings. Then the book Fifty Shades of Grey came out and all of a sudden everybody wanted to come to my classes. There were always teachers you could learn from, but my classes were light and sexy and glamorous instead of the stereotypical dark, gothic, hardcore sort of imagery.”
Growing up, sex wasn’t particularly taboo in her family; it just wasn’t discussed at all. But she also didn’t have a lot of censorship, so was free to watch R-rated movies and read her mom’s bodice-ripping romantic novels. “I’d be seeing highly sexualized movies like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, and the character Sharon Stone played is actually the character I modeled my dominatrix persona after – she made such an impression on me.
"I was attracted to this idea of a strong woman who knows what she likes, and is comfortable in her sexuality, and makes no apologies. That was the kind of woman I wanted to be.”
“I was also a huge Madonna fan – she’d just started doing her Blonde Ambition tour and singing songs like ‘Justify My Love’ and ‘Erotica.’ So that influenced what I thought sex was. I was attracted to this idea of a strong woman who knows what she likes, and is comfortable in her sexuality, and makes no apologies. That was the kind of woman I wanted to be.”
As a teenager experiencing her first fumblings with her high school boyfriend, she was keen to start pushing the boundaries. “I was always like, ‘What else can we do here? How else can we amp it up?’ I’d suggest, ‘Why don’t you tie me up? Or why don’t I slap you?’ My boyfriend? He was just happy to have sex!”
But that wasn’t enough for her. She loved feeling “like the puppet master or the composer,” she says. “You also get this indirect pleasure from bringing other people pleasure and seeing them comfortable in their own skin, and knowing that you created this safe environment for them.”
“The number one misconception is that this is just prostitution or escorting. And my work does not involve nudity or a sexual exchange. It’s very erotic."
Her journey of sexual self-discovery took her to the kink scene in Tokyo in 2002, and dungeons all over the world, practicing and teaching the finer points of BDSM.
But she knows what you’re thinking. And you’re wrong.
“The number one misconception,” says Kimi, “is that this is just prostitution or escorting. And my work does not involve nudity or a sexual exchange. It’s very erotic. My clients can be naked, should I feel that’s appropriate. But, although it’s considered sex work, it feels like so much more than that, because there’s such a big psychological and emotional element to it. There’s a lot of talking and prepping and conversations back and forth about how the encounters are going to play out and how it’s going to be, before you even meet the person. And it’s an art form. I’ve studied with a lot of great people all over the world to learn how to do these different techniques in a way that’s safe and effective, and that’s ultimately going to bring my partner a lot of pleasure. BDSM doesn’t even have to lead to any sort of climax; it can be that the act itself is enough for people.”
“Some people go to the gym and work out to blow off steam. Some people want to get spanked and lose a little control."
It’s an important distinction. Because, while she’s trained in how to keep her clients safe as well as stimulated, she also has a deep understanding of how to tap into someone’s psyche. “I’m not going to go in and just spank the shit out of someone,” she says. “There’s this whole scenario of setting the stage and building the anticipation, and taking them on a journey and getting into their heads. Everything is very, very deliberate.”
Her exploration led her to become a student of somatic therapy, which combines talk therapy with body psychotherapy and energy work, and she says her work as a domme can be as therapeutic as it is sexual.
“Some people go to the gym and work out to blow off steam. Some people want to get spanked and lose a little control. People tell me they can do their jobs better; they can do their family life better; they can do their regular life better when they have that outlet.
“A lot of clients want to explore fantasies that they typically don’t feel they can explore with their partners, or they don’t feel comfortable even telling their friends about,” she adds.
"I think vanilla sex is amazing. I’m a huge, huge fan. But I like having options. And kink is just another item in your tool box."
“They don’t want their families to know. Some of them are married and they don’t want their husbands or wives to know because there’s a shame and stigma around these unconventional sexual practices. So to be able to be with someone in that place and to make them feel like it’s OK, and to make them feel safe and make them feel seen – bearing witness to that can be really cathartic for some people. Often all we really want in this world is connection and to feel seen. And I offer that to my clients. It’s fucking fun too!”
But once you’ve stepped over to the dark side of sex, can you ever go back to missionary?
“Oh, hell yeah, absolutely,” she says. “I think vanilla sex is amazing. I’m a huge, huge fan. We’re such complex creatures, it’s hard to just say I would want one thing or the other. But I like having options. And kink is just another item in your tool box.
“And, ultimately, I don’t identify purely as a domme. I like to switch it up depending on my mood, depending on the partner, depending on who I’m with.”
A version of this interview first appeared in the February 2020 issue of W42ST magazine. Stay in touch with W42ST and be first to read stories like this when you subscribe to our daily newsletter at w42st.com