I have always been a person who likes things just so.  My apartment is tidy.  I stack my books neatly against the wall.  When, as a student, I write a paper, I line up my arguments with rigorous precision:  points A, B, C, D, conclusion—any questions?  You might think this a common personality trait for a  dominatrix, but most of the girls I worked with at Torture Garden were far from fastidious.  How many Sundays did I come to work early and find my pre-books in disarray?  All the girls knew Mistress Colette’s scheduling requirements:  half an hour between sessions, no more than four sessions in a day.  Since my first was always at ten o’clock with Robert and I liked to take my last at four, it did not require great logistical talent to pencil in two additional appointments with half an hour’s margin.  And yet on Sunday after Sunday I would arrive to find a session at three and another at four with no break in between, or five sessions lined up one after another like waltzes on a dance card.

Even now I can see myself hunched at the table, the big house silent, the day sheet spread before me like a problem in quantum physics.  In some sense I must have craved this disorder.  In some sense it must have fed a need.  Perhaps I became a dominatrix , not to impose discipline on others, but to see the discipline in my own nature challenged.    

The telephone rings.


“Hello?  Is this…? Who is this…?” 

“Who is this?” I say.

Hesitation.  “Is this the Gates?”

“Yes it is.”

“Can you tell me if Mistress K is working?”

“Mistress K is on the schedule today.”

“I want… I want…”  

The faintest suggestion of a tremor in his voice.  Is he nervous or is he…?  

“I want to book a session.”

“Have you been here before?”

“I have. Yes.”

“And when was that?”

“Well, no I haven’t.  Actually I haven’t.”

It could be nerves.  Men are often nervous when they call. 

“I’d like to book a session now.”

“What time were you thinking of?”

Silence.  And then, explosively:  “Two o’clock!”

“Let me check the schedule.”

“Two o’clock for two hours!” 

A two-hour session is a red flag coming from a first-time caller.  I listen intently for sounds of what I believe to be happening—but the line is quiet.  

“Mistress Karin is available at two o’clock,” I say, “but only for one hour.”

“One hour then!”

“And what sort of session were you looking for?”


“Bondage, okay.”

“And CBT.”

“Okay,” I say.

“Cock and ball torture.”

“Yes, I’ve got it.”

“Cock,” he says again, giving the word a throaty weight, “…and ball torture.”

And now I am certain my assumption is correct.

“I want her to claw my balls!” he hisses.  “I want her to claw my balls to shreds!  Will she claw my balls?  Will she fucking rip my balls till they bleed?”  His words are coming in breathy bursts, punctuated at the edges by little squeaks of intensity.

“That’s something you’ll have to work out with the mistress.  May I have your name?”

But he is breathing too urgently.  He is almost whimpering.

“May I have your name?”

And then… a dial tone.

House policy at the Gates was to be polite to wankers.  Masturbation, after all, was our stock in trade.  What did we sell but elaborately realized contexts within which men could masturbate?  Still, to call up and try to snatch a wank for free was considered bad form by most of the girls.  Rather like shoplifting at a bookstore.  The clerks might acknowledge your regard for literature; they did not appreciate your unwillingness to pay.  And yet such calls were a daily occurrence.  Veteran girls could spot a wanker in the first few seconds and had various ways of cutting him off:  “Honey, I weigh three hundred pounds!” or “Sorry, we don’t do phone domination.”  New girls, however, were apt to be ensnared.  The most practiced wankers had developed shrewd routines and almost yoga-like breath-control to keep a girl hanging on the line until the crucial moment.  If we heard a new girl going on at length about, say, exactly how a brown shower worked, we would holler, “Hang up!  It’s a wanker!”   One guy used a different name and birthday each of the many times he called, as if he thought we wouldn’t recognize his Middle Eastern accent or his never-varying request to beat the girls with a cane.  It was my personal superstition that if the first call of the morning was one of these wankers, the day would be jinxed, sessions wouldn’t go right, scheduled girls wouldn’t show, pre-booking would be all fouled up.  Five sessions! 

Again, the phone rings.  I pick it up.  

“Will she rip my fucking balls like a tiger?”

Before I can reply he has slammed down the phone.  I have been a dominatrix too long to be, in any way, disturbed by such behavior.  Still, it adds to my feeling of the day going haywire.  I have chores to do, a house to open.  I don’t have time for pranks or wanks.  Heading up the stairs to get yesterday’s sex toys out of the sterilization bath, I am stopped before I can take three steps, by the phone ringing yet again.  Now, I’ve had it.  I am going to tell this guy to piss off!  I run down the stairs and snatch up the phone.

“Now, look…” I bark.

“Hi, Colette.  This is A.”


Another breathy voice—but not a wanker this time.  Because he has described it to me I know that Al is calling from the tiny apartment he shares with his wife, who is sleeping in the next room while he cups his hand over the phone and whispers.  He knows that he must keep the call short but at the same he wants to stretch it out.  It is one of Al’s kinks to be greatly aroused by my voice in his ear.

“Are we on for four o’clock?” he says.

“Four fifteen today,” I say.  “Do you have my chapter?”

“I do!”

A is writing a novel, and I sometimes think he gets more excited about showing me his new chapter than he does about the flogging I will give him.  After I mark A confirmed on the day sheet, I head back upstairs.  

Dildoes, whips, crops, ball-gags, wrist and ankle cuffs, blindfolds, and other implements of torture are lined up on a rack in the bathroom where they have dried overnight after sterilization.  Each toy has its place in one of T-Garden’s five fantasy rooms.  This is where my own sense of order is tested.  I can never remember if a spiked pinwheel goes in the Boudoir Room or in the Executive Dungeon.  I am never quite sure of the proper filing place for a flogger or a single-tail.  As I wrestle with this weekly puzzle, I hear the front door open downstairs and a sudden clash of chatter.  “Hello, Colette!” a chorus calls, and I call back:


Moments later the clump-clump of two girls coming up the stairs, their voices urgent with breaking gossip.  First Echo: “Oh, my God!” 

Then H:  “S was furious!”

I stick my head out of the Boudoir Room.

“Some guy beat the shit out of R,” H says.

“Oh no! ”

“Last week.”

“In a session?”

“In a session.”

“What happened?”

“I have to pee,” E says.  She goes into the bathroom and without closing the door, hikes up her skirt, tugs down her panties and sits on the toilet, eagerly attending the rest of the story.  

“She arranged with some guy to be paid by the stroke,” H continues.  “Like twenty bucks per whack or something.  I mean, R… please!  First time session?  Some guy off the street?  So of course the jerk just totally wails on her.  Bends her over the horse.  Marks her ass.  I think he racked up four hundred dollars.”

“Oh my God!” I say.

“Oh my God!” echoes from the toilet.

“Did she use her safe word?”

“Could she fucking remember it at that point?”  H says.  “The guy was such a clumsy brute, so awkward, such a complete and total dick, I think she must have gotten a little rattled.  R is very, um, literary, but she’s not always—you know, street smart.”

“Is she okay?” I ask.

“She’s okay.  She’ll be sitting rather gingerly for awhile.”

E hops off the toilet and washes her hands.  “Poor R!” she says.  “I’m going to give her a big smooch when I see her.”

“Just not on her ass,” Holly says.  

They giggle and groan.   This is all a bit cozy for me, so I pick up my stuff and head down the stairs while H and E crowd into the bathroom and unpack their cosmetics.  Coming down with the toys that belong (I think) in the Executive Dungeon, I hear K’s voice and stop to poke my head in the kitchen.  She is holding the phone to her ear, an antic expression playing on her face.  Mistress K in fetish attire is an image of almost overpowering sensuality:  full lips, a sumptuous bosom, long man-crushing legs, but K, plain K, out of costume before the show, looks like a girl you might not notice in a laundromat.  Her hair held up with bobby pins; her figure lost in a baggy sweatshirt; no lipstick; no eye-shadow; a sprinkle of acne marking her cheek.  Seeing me, she makes an “o” with her hand and moves it up and down in the air.

“He’s called three times!” I say.

“That really is something you should discuss with Mistress K,” Mistress K says into the phone.

In the dungeon I return the toys to their cabinet and spread out on the cage table a personal collection I have brought from home.  With the neatness of someone who likes things just so I arrange my favorite rubber erections, my nipple clamps, my vibrating glove (this for A), my quiver of crops and rods, my whips.  When everything is as I like it to be, I cue up my music on the CD player and step back to survey the room.  Here, as sometimes happens at the Gates, I am startled in the mirror by an unexpected image—not Mistress Colette, but a fresh, pleasant, unthreatening young woman in blue jeans and a gingham shirt; the sort of brainy Asian gal you might see striding across any campus, a law student or a medical student or a would-be architect.  I can never predict when this vertigo between one me and the other will strike, but it always gives me a little pang of uncertainty, a little moment of what am I doing here?   

I take off my shirt and my really quite sexy brainy-Asian-gal black bra.  I unbutton my jeans and pull them down.  I take off my panties.  I look at myself—both of my selves—and again feel that slight disorientation.  How is it that this willowy figure, this long, slender body, about which, not many years ago I felt so shy, how is it that these pale breasts, this white bottom, these ordinary (to me) hands and elbows knees and feet hold such power to mesmerize?  Later today men will crawl to this body as if to a shrine. 

But why?  

From my carry bag I take out a pair of new stilettos.  They are ski-jump heels in black and red leather, and when I put them on I am lifted another six inches into the air.  Apparently it requires only this to transform the image in the mirror.  Wearing nothing but these nose-bleed heels and a knowing smirk, Mistress Colette looks me confidently in the eye. 

All men love a bad girl.  However conventional in taste or habit, however attentive to social position or maintaining appearance, every man, in his secret heart, holds a special place for the femme fatale, the biker chick, the girl with rings in her nipples and studs in her labia, the wildest whore in the tropical port.  All of these girls are represented in some fashion at Torture Garden, and every week dozens of conventional-looking men come to play out their deepest fantasies with them.  But for a particular type of man the top of the bad-girl pyramid is held unchallenged by that very bad girl who appears, at first glance, to be a good girl.  For a long time I wondered why so many of my regulars were writers and professors, artists and intellectuals.  Finally, I understood.  When these men were little boys in school, they looked across the classroom at the prim little girl with the translucent skin and tight pony-tail, the teacher’s pet who always raised her hand, and being unruly, creative types, they imagined all the creatively nasty things they would like to do to her.  Now, grown up and sated with femme fatales and biker chicks, they find again that prim little girl, that cool teacher’s pet and discover that she likes to… well, claw their balls to shreds.

I step off my new heels and rummage in my carry bag for the lingerie I will wear this morning.  I’ve selected a bra-and-panty set that rides low on my breasts and hips.  And a corset to put these delicacies on a pedestal.  When everything is in place, I tie on a see-through lace peignoir and step again onto my skyscraper heels.  I am bending down buckling the straps of these stilettos when Karin saunters up and leans on the door frame.       

“So did he finally get off?” I ask.

“You know what’s funny?  I think I know that guy!”

“That’s’ crazy!”

“Last week I had a session with this totally meek little man, this little ur-wimp.”

“Not Maul-My-Balls!”

“This guy’s voice was exactly the same.”

“You should have told him he was speaking to Mistress K.  He would have blown his load.”

“Oh, he blew his load without my help.  These guys don’t actually need us, you know.  We’re just the props.  We’re just the blow-up dolls.  Nice shoes.”

From the stairs a clatter of footsteps and laughter.  H and E, in full make-up and now clad only in their underwear, thump into view.  As punctuation for whatever they are talking about, H gives E a playful swat on the bottom.  “That’s twenty bucks!” E cries.  “You owe me twenty bucks!”  Always aware when she is being observed and ever twinkling under her rock-a-billy bangs, E smacks a big air-smooch at Karin and me.  

K turns and says, “Showtime!” then follows H and E into the kitchen.      

Again, for an instant, the old vertigo:  What am I doing here?  Looking at my personal collection of torture devices laid out as other girls might lay out their lipsticks or their costume jewelry, I have a thought.  Perhaps it’s not the day that’s jinxed, but me.  My whole existence.  Having trafficked in practices on the underside of luck, perhaps I am helpless ever to recover.  Like a vampire who steeps her fangs in blood and then must pursue the taste forever, I am doomed, it seems, to seek sensations outside of “normal.”  How else explain a young woman committed to A, B, C, D, conclusion—any questions?  embracing  so completely the chaos of this place?  How explain a man of meek disposition phoning a stranger with his cock in his hand or a man whispering to a girl he loves while his wife sleeps only a few feet away or a man so lost to fantasy he beats a young woman until she shakes and cries.  It’s because they’re all jinxed.  They have stepped into a world from which there is no return.  As have I.

The doorbell sounds.

“Colette, that’s yours!”

I take a last look in the mirror and high-step on my stilettos to the door.  I peer through the peep-hole.  Sunshine is streaming onto the porch.  Behind me I hear my friends laughing in the kitchen.  Releasing the latch, I open the Gates for business, careful to remain out of sight as in that cool, prim, teacher’s pet voice I say:  “Come in.”  

A kindly face peers around the door.  A smile.  A look of absolute devotion—the first of five I will see today.  

Yes, jinxed for eternity!  God, I love this job!

“Hello, R…”


To learn more about R

To one of my first sessions as a switch, when I learned about my boundaries, the hard way