MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE WOMEN:
Interviews with Professional Dominants
by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.
Copyright © 1999 by William A. Henkin
"I really donít know in advance how the film is going to come out.... Often the fun and the surprise comes in the kinds of connections you make when you are sitting here, shaping a sequence or compressing it from a couple of hours down to about ten minutes.... For most of the films, the shooting is the research."
-- Frederick Wiseman in "ĎItís All One Long Movie,í Christina Rathbone Interviews Frederick Wiseman," DoubleTake, Fall 1988, pp 77 - 83 (80 - 81)
Between 1987 and 2001 I was a Contributing writer for Spectator (http://www.spectatormag.com), a weekly sex review published in Berkeley, California. I have contributed numerous reviews to its pages chiefly of books, but also of videos, art shows, and events and a few longer articles having to do with psychology and sexuality. In 1994 Spectatorís editor, Layne Winklebleck, and I agreed to do a series of interviews with professional dominants in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Under the purest circumstances the interview is a unique art form. Its primary concern is the subject it is centered on, yet the first definition of the word interview in the Oxford English Dictionary is, "To have a personal meeting with (each other)," parentheses included. In other words, an interview is a joint effort.
In this effort, ideally, author and subject work together toward a common goal, or toward separate goals that can be pursued together. How those goals are chosen by the participants defines the nature of any particular interview: they might choose to exploit, explore, expose, puff, or share some special slant on the subject, for example. In light of their mutual purpose or a purpose of her own, the subject of the interview can decide what she wants to tell the readers, and in light of their mutual purpose or a purpose of his own, the author chooses a posture such as friendly witness, fully visible and equal participant, hidden provocateur, or hostile gadfly: some sort of foil through which the subjectís goal is shown. In other words, the subject and what she has to say are at the center of an interview, while the questions the author asks, the attitude with which he conducts the interview, and the way he edits the material shape and set the tone of the piece. In these and other ways the interview is a little like a text version of the documentary film.
The interviews that follow were not done under the purest circumstances. Spectator has a long-standing interest in First Amendment rights, it publishes a stable of reliably good writers, and it has consistently sought to provide for its readers a wider than usual perspective on sex: what it is, what it means in different contexts, how it touches peopleís lives, and how it is perceived, valued, or devalued both in the sexual subcultures of our time and in our society at large.
Nonetheless, Spectator derives the bulk of its revenue from advertisements for various sorts of erotic services that fall within the envelope of the law, and it rarely seeks to present its advertisers in deliberately unflattering lights. When I interview a professional dominant for the sex paper that appears in city where she works, and in which she places her principal advertisements, I expect her to see the interview as an elaborate, free advertisement for herself. I want to support her efforts to be known to her current and prospective clients, and in that way I seek to be a friendly witness. But, as I say early on in nearly every one of my interviews, I also want to see and hear the real woman behind the professional image. At least in the small measure such a documentary window will afford, I want to know and to let my readers know who she is and how she came to be that person. I frame my questions, and edit the raw responses, to these ends.
With one exception the interviews that follow were conducted in my consulting office where I do psychotherapy and sex therapy. I came prepared with a few very general questions so that each interview would be sure to cover certain basic areas, and within that framework I followed the threads each woman presented to me so that she could be as whole and self-expressive as she wished. I then edited for continuity, and sought to retain the most informative and revealing stories each woman told. I permitted each woman to read my final draft and request changes for additions, deletions, or corrections. For the most part I honored those requests which were made to protect the personal privacy of the interview subject, or to minimize the risk of hurting someone else. While I made my presence and opinions known to the women in the course of the interviews themselves, I chose to keep my role relatively veiled in the final, published versions to point up the subjects. What emerged from our conversations is a group of portraits of intelligent, thoughtful, self-sufficient women whose active, educated involvement with sexuality is simultaneously an active, educated participation with art, healing, and/or spirituality. These women are also self-aware in ways that mock the traditional mainstream image of sex workers as helpless bimboes; in the conduct of their lives they could well serve as models for professionals in more traditional callings.
I did not perform one of the interviews archived here. Sybil Holiday, also known as M. Cybelle, was my primary partner for nine years. During that time we wrote a book and several articles together, we taught together, and we developed our ideas together. In the aftermath of that primary partnership we have remained profound and deeply loving friends. Layne interviewed Sybil, as he has interviewed other pro-doms, because none of us thought it appropriate for me to do so; but as Sybil and I still do with one another, she tried out some of her thoughts on me beforehand, and in the context of our history together I thought the issues she discussed and the way she expounded on them belonged here in this chapter of my archive. She agreed and Layne assented.
Before Spectator published the first Pro-Dom interview I wrote a little introduction for it that, with minor emendations now and then, served us for the entire series. The other publication I allude to in it is a San Francisco bi-weekly that makes annual awards for the Bay Areaís Best in many categories: hamburger, haircut, view, and so forth. With that explanation, let the original introduction serve now as my introduction to the archive chapter that follows:
Sometimes it seems that the San Francisco Bay Area has nearly as many professional dominants as it has restaurants. But because one manís meat is another manís poison, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and because I say tomayto / you say tomahto, there seems little point in trying to rate our local Pro-Doms as if they were burgers in the Bay Guardianís annual "Best of" Grand Prix. Instead of reviewing Mistresses, therefore, or perpetuating popular fantasies about The Mistress on the Hill, Spectator plans to publish an ongoing series of interviews that will take you behind the black leather door where you can meet some of the real women who specialize in the arts of dominance. The following interviews are with Mistresses Cléo Dubois, Ilsa Strix, Kira, Midori, Morgana, Reba, and Sybil Holiday aka M. Cybelle.
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