As the porn industry
was entering its heyday off shore, a woman called Gigi left her career as a dancer to enter the erotic industry. After winning the Penthouse Pet of the year title, and becoming Striptease although not as stylish, offers some sense of the margins one is looking at in this game. The riding crop sells for R438.90 online, but take Finweek’s advice on this – beginners would do well with a small birch branch picked off the closest tree. If readers are looking for something a little more heavy duty, German crafted equestrian crops retail online for R278.90 while budget options made of nylon weave are on sale for R34.46. Seems like with everything else in the retail world, branding is everything in the sex game.
For those wanting to make money in the ever-expanding BDSM market, the ambit isn’t limited to products, but includes professional services. A professional dominant/dominatrix, or pro-dom, is normally someone who has already become part of this booming lifestyle and takes money for his or her services.
“We don’t say how much we charge, we use the word ‘donation’ or ‘contribution’,” says Mistress Gail, a Durban-based prodom. But there are guidelines: “The con- Queen of 1997, Gigi opened a gentleman’s club called The Lollipop Lounge in Randburg in Gauteng. Her aim – to create a warm, friendly and welcoming environment, not only for the predominantly male clientele who frequent the club, but women who ‘rent’ the club to make money.
Today The Lollipop Lounge is a well-established landmark, and the club employs some 50 staff and is home to 60 dancers. “The erotic industry is highly competitive, and we are proud to say that we have been running for eight years,” says Gigi, who adds that the club has largely grown by word of mouth. “Ask people in Johannesburg and they will either say they know about the Lollipop Lounge or have tribution for a 30 minute session is R450. An hour’s session, including the first consultation is R600,” Mistress Gail explains.
The KwaZulu-Natal professional dominatrix-cum-fetish and fantasy specialist has deliberately not read the 50 Shades books because she has heard that the storyline included a lot of emotional abuse, which she feels is a “misrepresentation”. Her approach is based on respect.
“I earn a living from this, but I don’t believe in exploitation of a person’s weaknesses, low self-esteem or fear-based emotions. What we create is a synergy, which is a win-win for both parties, and where we respect each other’s boundaries. It’s a form of trust, but more a form of illusionary trust. It’s basically just a game that uses a hell of a lot of creativity.”
Mistress Gail, who has been in the business for 15 years, specialises in dominance, bondage, discipline, fantasies and fetishes – exploring these in an improvised psychological role-play drama. The “scene” will never include nudity or sex. “There will be things they don’t like that they will discuss with me before the session starts, and they will know my boundaries. What I will have is a blank canvas – the fetish, and these will be my creative tools to work with. I don’t premeditate a session, I walk in and the session is created right there and then.”
Although there may be certain practitioners who cross the line into providing a sexual service as well, or even sex workers who practise BDSM as a “sideline”, this is more often the exception, as the excitement of the interaction is all about delayed gratification.
The recession has affected business, as it’s a disposable income-dependent activity. “Guys who used to come twice a month, only come once a month now,” reports Mistress Gail. But she knows she can depend on her regulars. And in her spare time, she has seized the opportunity to draw on her experiences and write a book.
Outside of sex toys, entertainment is another huge category in the sex industry