As the porn in­dus­try

Finweek English Edition - - COVER STORY -

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

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