This excerpt is the forward from "The History & Arts of the Dominatrix" and is republished with permission from by Anne O Nomis. Buy it here.

My journey into the world of the Dominatrix began in Melbourne, Australia, five years ago. The inner-city suburb of Fitzroy was then the domain of the city’s Dominatrices. A tram line makes a path through the suburb’s heart, down the length of Brunswick Street, lined with cafés, boutique stores and cocktail bars. Just a few minutes walk from the main street were two dungeon establishments, discreetly located within Victorian villas on leafy side streets.

At the time, I was managing a large design showroom, the car park entrance of which was opposite one of the dungeon establishments. My male work colleagues would be on the lookout for the arrival or departure of one of these intriguing ladies, passing through the tall front gate, carrying a duffle bag slung over shoulder, stuffed to the brim. The Dominatrices of Fitzroy then formed part of the cultural geography of place. Stiletto high-heel boots clicked down Fitzroy footpaths in confident strides. Each dungeon accommodated around a dozen Dominatrices. You could on occasion catch a glimpse of them at local vendors, in Atomica Coffee, in Black Pearl bar and in Polly Lounge. Indeed the latter had a cocktail list that included a "Mistress" and "Red Stiletto" drink in a seeming nod to its clientèle, who often frequented the bar after work.



I was in Polly Lounge bar one night with friends, lounging on velvet chaises surrounded by Venus sculptures and Pre-Raphaelite paintings when on the seating area to my right, a woman ordered
her companion to kiss her foot. "Kiss my foot, slave," is exactly what she said. He dropped to the
floor, obediently to comply, kissing the toe of her foot in broad daylight.

Actually, I lie, it was chandelier light, but you get the picture. I was shocked, amused and intrigued all at once! As were my friends. The opportunity to learn more presented itself when I was invited to a birthday party of one of the Dominatrices. It was held on Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street - a night fueled by "dirty Russian martinis." I met around 10 Dominatrices, all of whom worked in the same dungeon. What startled me was learning about their backgrounds and "other" occupations. One was a court and police translator who spoke seven languages. One was a former children’s educator. One was a trapeze artist in the circus. Another was studying Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Yet another was studying permaculture and irrigation of desert environments. These were the kind of women you would love at a dinner party. Intelligent, articulate and compelling, with an open-minded and independent perspective on the world. Fascinating.


"Mistress Alex" in Times Square, New York, part of a series of artwork by Natasha Gornik.

I asked them about the history of the Dominatrix, how long "She" had been around. They didn’t know themselves. One thought the Dominatrix was a twentieth-century phenomenon, a kind of postwar evolution that paralleled women’s sexual liberation. Another told me it went back to Victorian English times and school discipline. I asked if they knew of a book on the topic. Heads nodded no, no, there’s no book. Shrugs of shoulders.

Some things happened within the intertwining period, not all of which I am able to share due to contractual restrictions in a blue folder. To provide some sense of background, however, my father
had cancer, and I was thrown deep into grief as it progressed and worsened, while simultaneously seeking out for him the best medical treatment available in the more specialized hospitals overseas and offering all my emotional support as best I could. I had also moved jobs and felt very unchallenged and underutilized in my new role. A combination of immense grief in my personal life, and boredom in my working life. Ripe soil for the growth of an unusual flower.

I had a blackboard in my kitchen with a quote from Katherine Mansfield (the short story writer and expatriate New Zealander). Eating my breakfast each morning, I would look up and ingest its
words along with my toast and coffee:

Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.

If people spend their lives worrying too much about what other people think, proximity to death breaks down some of those absorptions. And as one of my senior friends told me, "we’re all fertilizer for grass, in the end. You don’t regret things you’ve done in life so much as things you didn’t do, the opportunities you didn’t take."

I wanted to take up the challenge, and write the book on the Dominatrix. And as I was facing dark fears of losing one of my closest family members to cancer, other worries such as what other
people would think began to pale in comparison of magnitude.

The appeal of the dungeon was that of an "other world" realm. Learning about the Dominatrix promised insight into matters of submission, suffering, acceptance and the secrets of people’s deepest desires. There was also something about the discipline and facing of fear in the dungeon, which I wanted (or perhaps needed) at that time.


A flagellation print from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The decision to write on their craft would change my path forever, leading me into a clandestine double life, of days spent at my job and evenings spent learning about the arts of these women. A
year of corsets, cages, whips . . . and inevitably of death. After being soaked in grief and loss, and processing through it, I finally found the courage to begin living again. To throw in my boring unstimulating job, to move to Europe and study a Master’s degree in the field I was most passionate about to my core being, and to simultaneously complete my research on the Dominatrix.

Want to read the book that was written as a result? Check it out here.