On the front of a glossy brochure for a ‘Female Supremacy’ studio, services listed include: Whipping, Caning, Kicking, Isolation/Incarceration, Spanking, Punching and NEW: Electro Torture. Not what most people would do for fun – or necessarily fantasy for that matter. But, says Goddess Rakcham (Love/Pain), a dominatrix employed by the studio, there is a niche market that will pay good money for all of the above and more. While the average man (or woman) looking for a salacious night out might trawl the go-go bars or visit a brothel, it’s only a select few that require the services of a woman like Goddess Rakcham (otherwise known as Nid*) to excite them.
It’s not about sex though – at least not for Nid – that’s made abundantly clear in bold type below a photograph of her clad in a patent leather cat-suit and harlequin mask: ‘Sex? If you want it, go to a bar or a fetish club. Don’t come to me. Come to me if you want PAIN, plain and simple!’ “I don’t ever have sex with my clients,” she reiterates, when I meet her at the Chiang Mai townhouse she recently leased for business purposes. “Many of them do get turned on during our sessions together, and they can masturbate if they want, but there’s no intercourse. Many of them ask me to go out for dinner with them after a session, or to spend the night with them – but I never do. How can a mistress go out to dinner or sleep with her slave?”
The apartment is clean and orderly, with nothing on the first floor save for two rattan screens blocking the interior from view. A staircase leads to the upstairs area, which is divided into two rooms: one containing a large barred cage and a two-metre high, X-shaped cross with steel loop bolts fastened into the upper reaches; the other, a set of black wooden stocks and a table bearing an orderly assortment of canes and whips, chains, ropes, spanking pads, an electro-shocker, masks, candles, a leather gimp cap with zips in place of eye and mouth holes, and a bottle of sanitation gel. Picking up a reed-thin rubber cane, I flick it and flinch at the whistle it makes as it slices the air. Nid smiles coquettishly at me, saying, “It’s nice, that one. The clients like it.”
At 170 cm tall, with a powerful physique built through years as a professional muay thai fighter, Nid is unusually tall and strong for a Thai woman, but otherwise the most striking thing about her is that she’s incredibly normal. Contrary to my expectations she’s not creepy or frightening – she’s polite and friendly, with, it turns out, a great sense of humour. Neither is she a man-hater who was abused as a child or trafficked into prostitution and turned to BDSM as a way to indulge her misandrist fantasies: she grew up in a traditional Thai family, graduated from university, and spent almost a decade working as an accountant before entering the tourism industry, where she met Angela, a BDSM veteran who suggested Nid join her in a business venture that was likely to up her income substantially.
“Angela told me I was powerful, confident and attractive, and that these were the right qualities for a dominatrix,” explains Nid. “She told me that I didn’t need to have sex with any of the clients, or do any drugs as part of the job, so I thought ‘why not?’ She gave me a DVD to watch and that’s how I started out, about a year ago. Now, instead of making between 30 and 300 baht a day, like I did in my tourism job, I can make up to 3000 baht in three hours – even though, for safety’s sake, we always work at least two mistresses to one client, sometimes three if a man is very big or looks as if he could be dangerous. Before the red shirt protests I could make good money doing this work – on average I’d get 10 to 20 customers a month, but now business is down by about 80%.”
Her first time as a ‘mistress’ was very strange, says Nid, particularly because in Thailand, gender roles are very clearly defined, with the man being the undisputed leader and head of the household. “Traditionally, women do everything to serve the man, they need to ask his permission to go out or do anything out of the ordinary, and they don’t usually say no to him. In the tourism business, too, I couldn’t ever say no to clients, or get angry with them – I always had to be smiling. But in the work I do now I can control the men that come to me, they want me to control them.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, in light of the cultural norms that Nid describes, all of her current clients are foreigners, except for one Thai man who has lived in the US for many years. They are also all male, though she has had one woman contact her with plans to visit. Many of her customers are high-powered businessmen who control entire companies – or even empires – and desperately need to be controlled sometimes, she says. Some want catharsis through tears but cannot cry under normal circumstances, while others just want to realise a long-imagined fantasy. “Some customers like to be whipped and chained, or spanked and kicked, but some just want to be humiliated – so I make them clean my toilet or lick my feet – and others just want to be locked in a cage for the night and treated like a dog – so I chain them up and give them sour milk and make them eat out of a dog’s bowl. Some don’t even see it as a sexual thing – they just want to want to get hurt. They say that’s better to them than sex.”
There’s lots of role play involved, explains Nid: she asks clients to tell her their fantasy and she acts it out for them. She believes the reason customers are prepared to pay her so much for her services is that she provides an authentic experience. “I’ve asked some of them why they don’t just spend 1000 baht on a bargirl and tell her to do the same things I do, but they say it’s not the same when they have to tell someone what to do, or when the girl doesn’t want to do it but feels forced into it. I know what to do, and I’m happy to do it – that’s the difference.”
“Sometimes I feel guilty, like when I cane clients and they cry out. But then, when I start to be gentler with them, they ask me to go harder, so I do what they want – and afterwards they thank me and I can see that they are happy – and that makes me happy. Many of them have problems that can’t be solved by going to the doctor or taking some medicine, so they come to me – I am the only one who can help them. I am the only one who can make them feel better.”
* Name has been changed to protect identity