Meet the College Professor Who Moonlights as a Dominatrix

Handout When you think of a college professor, you don’t usually think of a dominatrix. And, you also don’t usually think of someone who is so underpaid that they don’t know how they’re going to afford rent or groceries. However, due to college administrators’ relentless drive to cut labor costs […]

Handout
Handout

When you think of a college professor, you don’t usually think of a dominatrix. And, you also don’t usually think of someone who is so underpaid that they don’t know how they’re going to afford rent or groceries. However, due to college administrators’ relentless drive to cut labor costs via outsourcing college instruction to freelance “contingent faculty,” the latter is increasingly common. And for that reason, at least one professor—whom we’ll meet soon—has taken up BDSM as a side job.

More than half of all college professors are now “adjuncts”: part-time freelance instructors who often have the same PhDs as their tenured and full-time colleagues, but who get paid low amounts on a per-course basis, with few or no benefits and little job security. Typically, adjuncts (also known as “contingent faculty”) string together gigs at multiple colleges, which pay an average of $3,984 per course. Three courses a semester, or six per year, is considered a full teaching load—though many adjuncts report it’s difficult to get this many courses—which comes out to a typical yearly income of $23,904 for the “lucky” adjuncts with a full-time-equivalent teaching load.

For reference, full-time baristas at Starbucks make an average of $27,030 per year, and are eligible for benefits including health insurance, dental, vision, 401(k), paid time off, parental leave, and even emergency financial assistance during family crises; adjunct professors typically receive none of these benefits.

So, many adjunct professors now find themselves needing to find significant side-work to stay afloat within academia. I came across the lively Twitter feed of Mistress Snow, PhD, whose bio reads, “Professor by day, pro-Domme by night—let me teach you a lesson.”

Last December, Mistress Snow—who says her field is in the humanities—wrote a personal essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled “I Told My Mentor I Was a Dominatrix: She Rescinded Her Letter of Recommendation.” The summer before the article came out, she found herself without a teaching gig—which is common for adjuncts. “I had about a week to cobble together a couple grand before rent was due,” she writes. “The clock kept ticking; there was no lifeboat in sight. I was hungry. So I swallowed my pride, reluctantly dusted off my corset, and dialed up the old dungeon. By the end of the week, I was back in the sex trade, beating, humiliating, and degrading men (and sometimes women) for $90 an hour, plus tips.”

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Mistress Snow refers to her mentor by the pseudonym “Anne” in the Chronicle article. Having developed a close personal bond with Anne over seven years—and thinking Anne would be supportive, as she worked on class and labor issues in her research—Mistress Snow decided to divulge her secret to Anne. To Mistress Snow’s surprise, Anne took it horribly, telling her, “Academia and sex work are mutually exclusive.” In an email that Mistress Snow shared with me, Anne wrote to her: “If this information comes out in any way, shape, or form, it will destroy your academic prospects… In the age of FB and everything being on the internet, you don’t want this out there—ever. This is what I mean about blowing up the part of your life that matters most. You will lose all credibility. Time to stop.”

Strangely, after expressing this concern, Anne then tried to ensure Mistress Snow wouldn’t have an academic career by rescinding her letters of recommendation, which are the main currency of academic job searches.

I had the opportunity to interview Mistress Snow recently via Zoom about juggling two very different jobs.

Why do you think your mentor felt that using your sexuality to support yourself was “mutually exclusive” in relation to academia?

It’s totally hypocritical, because faculty regularly encourage women to use our sexuality to pursue the life of the mind. An academic job mentor I was randomly assigned once—it was someone other than Anne—said to me, “Make sure you bring ‘fuck-me’ boots to the interview.” The amount of preparation I have to go through every time I have a job interview! “Is this too sexy?” “Is this too boring?” All of which has nothing to do with my academic research. It’s just another way of policing women’s bodies. Right before I told Anne about my work, I was teaching four classes, and only making about $30K a year from that. I needed more to pay my bills and student loans, so on top of teaching four days a week, I dommed three days a week. I was running each day from one campus to another, and then to the sex dungeon. I would get home from the dungeon at 2 a.m., and then I’d have to go teach an 8 a.m. class. It was a nightmare. I would be shaking. I couldn’t see straight. My contacts would fall out of my eyeballs because my eyes were so dry. The body is very much necessary for the life of the mind; if the needs of the body are ignored, the mind can’t do its work.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Mistress Snow</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Instagram</div>

Instagram

Shaming adjuncts for using their bodies to make money is actually a way of shaming and weeding out adjuncts from poorer backgrounds, who don’t have family support and have to take second and third jobs. A second job for an adjunct needs to be highly flexible, due to our teaching schedule—it’s not going to be some consistent office job. Most flexible jobs rely heavily on the body—such as waiting tables, retail, bartending, or sex work. I think there’s this fantasy that many academics have, that their mentees are little carbon copies of them. When I started doing something with my body that my mentor found so repulsive, she had to distance herself as much as she could.

Why do you think your academic mentor had such a problem with you domming?

I can read it for you [laughs]. Here’s a snippet from one of the last emails Anne wrote to me:

“About sex work—well, there are many arguments in favor of legalizing sex work and for accepting it, on the grounds that it is often between consenting adults (though very often not), that people have a right to experiment sexually, and that sex workers have a right to be paid fairly, etc. I understand that those arguments exist, but I am not going to make them because I mainly don’t believe in them… Money is always nice to have, but it doesn’t sound to me like this is about the money. It strikes me as being an outcome of being sexually abused, and an attempt to take back agency while also expressing your anger. Is that really what you need to do?”

Where do I even start? First of all, if it’s not between consenting adults, then that precludes it from being sex work, bitch. Then it’s trafficking; it’s not work. Then there’s her line about having a “right to experiment sexually.” Again, she’s not perceiving sex work as work. As if this is just about sexual experimentation for me, not about money. I don’t see it as experimenting with my sexuality at all, because it’s not about my sexuality; it’s about paying rent. Even if my client is getting off, I’m at work, and it has nothing to do with my own sex life. It’s not like I’m sitting there thinking, “Man, I wonder what it feels like for someone to suck on my toes. I’m going to go down to the dungeon and find some random dude to suck my toes and try it out.”

Then there’s her line, “Money is nice to have, but it doesn’t sound to me like this is about the money.” Like most tenured faculty, Anne is a boomer. She went to college and got her PhD decades ago, when college was comparatively cheap, before there were the mountains of student debt we now have, and before the whole adjunctification trend really started. She has no idea what it’s like to try to live as a contingent faculty member with no benefits, hustling teaching gigs semester by semester, paying down six figures of student debt, on $30K a year.

Did you do sex work before you were an adjunct?

Yes. The summer between college and graduate school, I was working retail. I was able to afford cereal and shit, but not, like, dinner. So I was going on two dates a day—lunch dates and dinner dates—just to get the free meals. At a certain point, I was like, “I’d rather just have the cash than the meals with these guys.”

When I got to graduate school, I tried to find a dungeon to start working in, but there weren’t any I could find in the city. I started doing some independent work, but then I had a really violent client, whom I didn’t screen properly, and I was like, “Fuck this shit, I’m done.” I stopped domming, maybe my second or third year in grad school. I picked it up again in the summer of last year. I needed cash ASAP. I started domming independently again because I didn’t have time to start in a dungeon, but I got into a dungeon after about a month.

What’s your specialty? Did you train formally in BDSM?

I shadowed more experienced Dommes. Some clients like being watched, so it works out. But there are so many Dommes, typically younger ones, who will go into sessions thinking, “Fake it till you make it!” Which is fine… if you’re not dilating someone’s urethra, or trying to give an enema. I didn’t give an enema until I watched several other people give enemas. [laughs]

My specialty is corporal punishment: flogging, caning, paddling. The thing I really like about corporal sessions is that, for me, the adrenaline rush is far greater than with, for example, a humiliation session. It’s fun to flog the shit out of someone. I was domming at the dungeon right up until the pandemic started. Since then, I’ve been doing a bit of online and phone work. And I still teach my college classes virtually.

Have you ever had a close call, like a student of yours or a colleague walking into the dungeon?

No, fortunately not. I’ve definitely had recognizable academics as clients though. It pisses me off. These men aren’t going to face any repercussions for coming to pay me in the dungeon. But I could get fired from my academic job for taking their money.

Do your clients know you’re a professor? And do you ever do professor/student role-plays with your clients in sessions?

Yes, I sometimes tell clients I’m a professor beforehand if I think it’ll be a selling point. Some of them are really into the professor/student role-plays. And it’s always so awkward, because all I can think of is how unethical this would be if I was actually doing it in real life. But we’re in a dungeon, so I’m like, “Fuck it.” I make way more money per hour playing a professor in the dungeon than being one in real life.

What do you think is the psychology of a guy who fantasizes about a professor dominating him?

A lot of the men who come to see me have a desire to feel vulnerable and to feel like women have institutional power over them. For many successful men, the last time they had a woman wield institutional power over them was probably in school. Teachers already get so much parental shit projected onto them—which I say because I have a strong theoretical background in psychoanalysis. These dynamics make sense to me.

What response did you get from your Chronicle of Higher Education essay?

Dozens—maybe even hundreds—of sex workers in academia wrote to me. A few were adjuncts, but most were graduate students, and some had left academia. Dominatrixes, strippers, escorts. On the one hand, it didn’t surprise me, because not just some, but most of the Dommes at my dungeon were grad students. On the other, it did surprise me, because I felt quite isolated as a sex-working academic and could have used this kind of community. I had one academic I deeply admire write to me and say, “I don’t even know you, but if you want me to write you a letter of recommendation, I’m happy to, because this is bullshit.” Coincidentally, she had actually been my professor in college, which made the connection far more realistic.

The best thing to come from the article is that I feel like adjuncts, who consistently hold our tongues for as long as we can hold out hope for an academic career, can talk more honestly about the exploitation of our labor. If this profession has any hope of surviving after the havoc that’s been wreaked upon it over the past twenty years, these are the conversations we need to be having. And I’d like to say that my platform has helped to destigmatize sex work, but there were already so many brilliant sex workers organizing and educating before I came on the scene, and we should be listening to them regardless of whether they have a degree after their name.

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