Interview Copyright © 1994 by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.
Originally published in Spectator
WAH: How long have you been in the SM scene?
Mst. Reba: I started working professionally in December, 1993. I joined the Society of Janus [San Franciscoís pansexual BDSM support group, on the web at http://www.soj.org WAH] about four years before that and attended as many of Janusís informational programs as I could, but I was in a conventional marriage at that time I had been married for 23 years so my participation in the community was limited.
WAH: It sounds as if your interest in SM was more powerful for you than a 23-year marriage.
Mst. Reba: Oh, absolutely.
WAH: What about the SM was more powerful?
Mst. Reba: I get such good energy from SM! Going to the Janus meetings and being surrounded by that energy was important for me. Iíd had fantasies when I was a child, but I didnít know how to explain what I wanted, and nobody knew what I was talking about. I talked to my husband about my interests when we were first together, but he thought I was kidding so I let it go. When my kids were grown I realized that if I was ever going to explore the fantasies Iíd been having all my life then Iíd better do it.
WAH: What were your fantasies about?
Mst. Reba: They centered on spanking.
WAH: Were you the spanker or the spankee?
Mst. Reba: As a child, mostly the spankee. I had a serial fantasy from the time I was eight years old that involved one other person. I went to sleep almost every night making up the story, step by step, night after night. Often I didnít want to leave the spanking part, but something had to lead up to it and eventually I had to move on to what happened afterwards. Then, of course, Iíd just work up to another spanking. The fantasy was not overtly sexual, and I found it comforting not in the sense that Iíd get relaxed and mellow, but in that Iíd think, "Good! Itís time to go to bed, so now I can return to this fantasy!" partly because I was controlling what was happening.
WAH: Well, it was your fantasy.
Mst. Reba: Right. It was my fantasy. I could replay and replay the parts I liked, and if something was not quite right I could change it. I knew what was going to happen, I knew what peopleís reactions were going to be and how it was all going to turn out, I knew everything about it. There was stability in that knowledge, and there wasnít a lot of stability elsewhere in my life.
WAH: Was the spanker in your fantasy male or female?
Mst. Reba: Male, and Iím not saying who. When I told my husband he laughed, and the fantasy was totally ruined. I never had the fantasy with that person again.
WAH: Did you ever ask real people to spank you?
Mst. Reba: Yes, but that only contributed to my belief that reality was not as good as my fantasies. In high school Iíd ask some of my dates to spank me, then Iíd think they must wonder why I asked for that. When I did get spanked it was never right, but I wouldnít tell them to stop I just hated it. I really hated it. It wasnít that it hurt, but they didnít know what they were doing. It was frustrating and very irritating.
WAH: Did you ever return to your fantasy life?
Mst. Reba: Yes. Once that first fantasy was finished I got another, and I updated. I stopped being a little girl, and the new fantasy had erotic overtones. Sometimes intercourse was involved. The new fantasy person was totally made up, and a little more often I was the spanker.
WAH: So at least in your fantasy world you were moving from being the spankee to becoming the spanker. Who ran the fuck in your "real" life?
Mst. Reba: We didnít know for a long time. My husband and I went to a sex therapist after weíd been married four or five years, and the therapist decided we were in conflict over who was in charge. I thought, "Weíre paying this person?" I mean, we knew that, or at least I knew that. The conflict made me very unhappy, because whether it was obvious that I was in charge or not I knew that I wanted to be in charge. It evolved that I was on top when we had sex, which was partly a result of my fantasy of being in charge; then also my ass was on top so I could have fantasies about having my ass spanked.
WAH: So you became dominant in order to get spanked?
Mst. Reba: Right! I didnít actually get spanked that way, but feeling my ass up in the air helped with the fantasy. I wasnít on top in a dominant way, but of course if youíre on top then you really do have more control over whatís happening.
WAH: How did that lead you to Janus?
Mst. Reba: By the time I was in my 30s I started trying to find something about my interests in bookstores. I was reading a lot of science fiction, and one day I found a Sharon Green novel with this Amazon warrior on the cover. I thought, "Oh, very good!" And of course she gets spanked. Itís light porn, but it was just wonderful for me, it was so hot! There turned out to be four or five books in this Amazon series: theyíre all erotic, and in each one thereís a fair amount of SM-type activity. I found the books a real turn-on, and Iíd stay up all night reading them. Then I read 9-1/2 Weeks, Exit to Eden, the Beauty series, and Macho Sluts. After awhile when I read this literature I started to identify with the spanker or the top, and started fantasizing about doing these things myself. Then, in Coming to Power, I read about the Society of Janus. I looked in the Bay Times listings [The San Francisco Bay Times is a lesbigaytransqueer biweekly newspaper WAH] under Support Groups and there it was. I called immediately and went to the next orientation, went to the program after that, and joined. I was really nervous and excited.
For two years I quietly went to Janus meetings. Then one afternoon I went to a QSM program where during the first half a woman showed us some toys she had made, and in the second half we got to try them out. [QSM is a BDSM school and mail-order bookstore in San Francisco, on the web at http://www.qualitysm.com -- WAH] One of the people I met at that class, a man who had talked to me a few times at Janus programs, asked me to top him in the second part of the program and I agreed. He took his pants off and leaned over the chair and I started to cane him. He got a hard-on so I could see he was enjoying it, and I knew I was enjoying it, and I started caning harder and harder and harder. I had already moved past my fantasies, which always involved very heavy spankings, not light, romantic things, but marks and welts werenít part of the fantasy and now I was making marks and welts, which was exciting.
I felt really, really high. I just felt fabulous. And I still felt really high driving home, and when I walked in the door I felt like I was plunged into cold water. It was a totally different energy. Until that moment I somehow thought I could keep my marriage, but when I got home I knew I was not going to be able to continue as I had been.
WAH: Youíve mentioned Macho Sluts and Coming to Power as books that were important to your coming out; since both books are lesbian oriented I wonder if you play with women?
Mst. Reba: I do. Iím not bisexual well, I say that and then I find myself thinking about some woman, "Gee, sheís awfully cute," and I can still appreciate a nice body. But it doesnít happen often. In private I play very intensely and thereís not a lot of people to play with anyway, men or women.
WAH: Yes, Iíve heard about your fondness for pain. From your report of the QSM class Iíd guess you like canes. My experience suggests that people who like canes often like other sorts of flagellation instruments too. Is this true for you?
Mst. Reba: Yes. My very favorite toy, the first toy I ever got to use, was a strap. A person I play with a lot, a very heavy masochist I met when I was making the switch out of my marriage, bought that strap. I enjoyed playing with it and him so much I was concerned for awhile when people started to ask if I wanted to play professionally, because I thought I played too heavily. Then, of course, I realized that I donít have to play heavily: itís not the only way. And as a professional Iíve never felt out of control or that Iíve gone past what somebody wanted, and gradually I realized I was actually enjoying this other, less intense level of play too.
WAH: What is it that you particularly enjoy in private, and what do you particularly enjoy professionally?
Mst. Reba: I first played with the strap and the ass is still my primary erotic interest, so it follows that anything else you hit the ass with I also enjoy, such as canes and whips.
WAH: What is it about these activities that turns you on?
Mst. Reba: I like the intensity. I notice it more with the strap or with a cane, and with some hands-on play too, like with tits or cocks and balls: when Iím squeezing somebody, things seem a little sharper, a little crisper, a little more immediate. And I like that the other person is taking this intensity for me. I know it hurts, he knows it hurts, he knows I like it, and thatís part of his turn-on.
WAH: So you also like the submission.
Mst. Reba: Right, though I didnít realize it at first because I donít get obviously turned on by submission. But I miss it if it isnít there everything works out so much better with it. Also, Iím not verbal in my play, and when I started out I associated verbal play with dominance, which is more psychological, rather than with sadism, which is more physical. But as a professional Iíve seen that there can be physical submission as well.
The first client I ever had who wanted no pain wanted to put on a pair of panties and kiss my feet and crawl around. To my surprise I really enjoyed the session, because he got so totally into it that it turned out to be very intense emotionally. That let me know that even without corporal punishment the intensity of the connection or the play is what turns me on.
WAH: I can tell by the glow on your face that you enjoy the memory.
Mst. Reba (laughs): Everything Iíve done Iíve really liked.
Mst. Reba: Everything Iíve done so far has been very natural for me. Accuracy, aim, timing have all been easy, as if theyíve been intuitive. When I caned the man at that QSM class, even though I had never handled a cane before, I didnít wrap and I didnít miss. The first time I used a whip was at a Links party. It wasnít a heavy thing, it was a suede whip I was watching this couple use, and they asked if I wanted to try it. Iíd been to some programs on whipping but Iíd never even held one before, and my hand kind of shook, but I said yes immediately. I remember wondering if I was out of my mind. But again it just seemed right, like I knew what I was doing. Two people complimented me on my whipping.
The same kind of thing happened the first time I did piercing and cutting. One of the young professionals wanted to learn to do them and I happened to have access to a heavy masochist who would participate. I thought I might like cutting, I could picture that, but I donít even like to watch piercings. We spent about an hour on each activity and as soon as I started on each one I found I did know. I didnít feel any concern, even though I certainly think of myself as safe. The masochist felt comfortable too, so he relaxed and got into it. And I did like cutting more than piercing. I started out doing my initials, then I did my whole name and ended with a flourish. I donít want to do those things professionally, but I enjoyed the scene very much.
When I first did a golden shower I figured, well, I know how to do that, we all know how to piss. But a lot of people canít piss on command, they freeze up, and that never even enters my head. I know Iíll be able to relax, and I enjoy that too: I feel powerful. But I wondered at first why someone would want me to do this.
WAH: For some people it feels very submissive.
Mst. Reba: Right. And heís paying me because he has a fantasy, or this is his escape, and he doesnít know anyone personally who will do this with him. Some of my joy and feelings of power come from my ability to make this fantasy happen: I can make this brief hour a time of escape for him, I can be good for him.
WAH: You mentioned corporal punishment a minute ago, and earlier you talked about spanking as punishment. Do you think your sadism is about punishment?
Mst. Reba: Actually it isnít, which is interesting since most of the professional spanking I do is the "naughty boy" kind. And in my initial spanking fantasies, when I was a child, punishment was the framework: thatís what spankings were for. But now I donít do those scenarios, and I donít think in terms of punishment. I think my partners or my clients and I are really doing a fabulous thing together. Thatís probably why I call myself a "compassionate" sadist: the opposite of compassion is cruelty and people think of sadists as cruel, or SM as violent, but I donít think Iím cruel or violent at all. Everything I do is consensual and enjoyable. Even though I like to play at a very intense level I only play that way with other people who want to as well. I donít find it enjoyable to even think of playing like that with someone who doesnít want to. This is not like a violent movie where nothing is consensual, it isnít enjoyable, and nobodyís having fun.
WAH: Speaking of violence, a lot of people outside the scene think of sadistic energy as an expression of anger. Do you think you bring angry energy to what you do?
Mst. Reba: I certainly hope I donít. If Iím angry I donít even want to play. I once had a session with a client who kept pushing on me, and when I asked him why he was doing that he said he was trying to make me angry enough to really, really let him have it. I said No: If I get angry, we stop the session. That first time I really played heavily, when I got so high, that was a smiling time. I mean, itís high, itís up, itís positive. Thatís how I feel about this, and thatís what I associate with intensity.
WAH: You said earlier that there wasnít a lot of stability in your life when you were young. What was your childhood like?
Mst. Reba: I was the oldest of three girls. My parents divorced when I was five, which was unusual for that time, and my mother took on a non-traditional womanís job with non-traditional hours: she was the first woman to sell life insurance in our town. Since she sold a lot of insurance at night and on weekends, I was left in charge a lot.
WAH: Do you think that made you grow up pretty fast?
Mst. Reba: Yes. My mother encouraged independence in my family. Iím from Tennessee, but before I was two we moved to Germany for three years, so my first language was German. When we came back to the States, Germans were very unpopular here and I spoke only German, so I really wanted to learn English. My parents were either divorced in Germany or soon after we came back, so for a short while we stayed with my motherí s parents, then we bought a house in the suburbs. We were the only single-parent household on our street, and my mother was the only working mother on the street. We also had a caretaker during the day, but she had six children of her own so I didnít feel a lot of emotional support from her. She wasnít mean or cruel or abusive or anything like that, I just donít think she had a lot of energy left. I also know that some of my erotic interests, like the ass, were definitely in place by then.
WAH: How so?
Mst. Reba: Well, weíd play doctor games and Iíd want to stick a pencil up my friendís ass. Some kids playing doctor want to look at somebodyís pussy or something, but I didnít. A lot of kids wanted to do bondage, and that wasnít an interest of mine either. And when I was 10 or 11, babysitting my five- or six-year-old cousin, I wanted to spank her.
WAH: And did you spank her?
Mst. Reba: Yes. Not hard, it wasnít really a punishment, but I was already thinking it was fun. Anyway, we had three years before my mother married someone I hated then and could work up a good hate for now. I had about three years of the stepfather, from just before I was nine till I was 12. The relationship between my mother and my stepfather was very abusive. One night they were having a fight in their bedroom with the door shut and she was yelling, "Call the police." After awhile I slipped out of the room I shared with my sisters. The house was all dark. I went up to the phone and my stepfather was sitting there next to it. In the dark. I reached for the phone and he just said, "Put it back down," and I did. I didnít say anything. I didnít want to be there.
We all had certain chores, like doing the dishes, but because I was the oldest I was supposed to make my sisters do their chores. I remember my mother and stepfather coming home on two occasions when my middle sister was supposed to have done the dishes and hadnít, so they woke me up to do them. Another time they came home and my youngest sister, who is only two years younger than I am, had spilled raisins or something on the counter and they woke me to clean those up too. Even though I was very well-behaved in public, and belonged to Brownies and Girl Scouts and got all the badges, it wasnít in me to accept this kind of treatment dociley. One time I yelled back at my mother she filled the tub with cold water and tossed me in. That was awful. It was not fun.
WAH: How does your professional life affect your private play and vice-versa?
Mst. Reba: Mine is a very simple philosophy: SM is play, itís fantasy, itís an escape, and it should be fun. If it isnít, why are we doing it? Privately or professionally, SM is not something I have to do: itís not a need, itís something I want to do.
WAH: You mean if it suddenly disappeared out of your life you wouldnít feel some need that was no longer being addressed?
Mst. Reba: Well ... yes. I would. So when I say itís not a need, maybe thatís not actually true. Maybe I need the energy. Orgasms are important to our physical being, and the way I have orgasms is through SM play, so if I couldnít play, I donít think Iíd have orgasms.
WAH: How do you have orgasms in your SM play?
Mst. Reba: Iíve never actually had an orgasm while I was playing. I get very wet often, and Iíve gotten very close playing at parties so I couldnít wait for the party to be over so I could go to the car and masturbate. But more often I have a kind of external orgasm from SM. Even though I donít really have an orgasm, I get so high on the energy that Iím left with some of the same feelings I usually feel after I do have had an orgasm. So in that sense I suppose SM is a need; physically and emotionally itís necessary for my well-being.
WAH: Because SM often is not genitally focused, some professionals donít like to think of domination as a form of sex work. How does it look to you?
Mst. Reba: I think itís sex work and I think thatís positive. We all to want to have our little moments of happiness and feeling good. If SM is one of the ways these moments can happen, I think thatís positive. And itís sexual, so Iím a sex worker.
WAH: Do you expect SM to be a part of your primary relationships in the future?
Mst. Reba: I know I could never have another relationship where SM is not part of it, so whether the other person and I actually play together or not, he has to know how important this is to me.
WAH: Even though you sometimes play with women, youíve been married, all your major relationships have been with men, and most of your clients are male. How do you feel about men?
Mst. Reba: I like men, and I like most of my clients. You know, my feelings about SM are all so up, up, up, up, up. The phone work sometimes sucks, and sometimes even after Iíve scheduled a session itís hard getting up that initial energy for it. But once I get ready it moves, and if I do more sessions a row I feel as if Iím flying. The energy starts going and itís there.
WAH: You mentioned getting off on sessions, and you mentioned that you sometimes masturbate after a session. Do you have any kind of regular way to get up for sessions or to cool down after a long day of them?
Mst. Reba: No, I donít have anything like a ritual. This is how I make my living. But once I put on my garter belt and stockings and high heels once I get dressed for the persona then I get into it very quickly. Itís not like itís a job then. A session is a very intimate experience the other person and I are trying to have in very non-intimate terms. Often the feelings are very personal. Itís amazing how often things go well.
It doesnít happen often, but there are clients who have a furtive attitude about coming to see me. When the sessionís over they canít wait to get out of there because theyíre uncomfortable about it. One man turned his back to me when he was getting dressed, shutting himself off. Another, who was married, wouldnít look at me while he was telling me about his fantasy. He tried, and he really couldnít. His fantasy wasnít that strange, but he was ashamed. He cried when he orgasmed: it was really a big release for him. I suggested that he talk to his wife about what he wanted, but I donít think he will. I was depressed about him for awhile, because he gets such joy from this simple thing that isnít hurting anyone else in the world, and yet he doesnít dare tell the person closest to him in his life. Many of us who are out were in some kind of closet at some time. Otherwise weíd have just started doing these things whenever we first wanted to.
Some people like the fact that SM is kind of forbidden, which I donít: Iíd like it to be acceptable. I also realize that for certain levels of play you may always have to go pay. But Iíd like people at least to feel comfortable talking about their interests. Itís just that I see SM as such a positive energy thing, how can it be bad?
As of January 1999, Mistress Reba can be reached at (415) 282-6154 or on the web at http://www.eros-guide.com/reba.
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