Friday, November 03, 2006

As I said yesterday, I have gotten a lot of letters from people wanting sex-work advice lately. Some of them are good letters, and some of them are...not so good.

Here we go...

Hi Mistress Matisse.

I have decided to clear my VISA bill through the adult want ads in craiglist. I have a few questions. As a pretty twenty year old chick that loves licking pussy,
1) what should I be expecting in terms of compensation for photos and video work? I was quoted by one photographer that I should expect 100 dollars an hour if I only do girl-girl.
2) do you recommend any safety tips in answering these kinds of ads? Do you run into dangerous people in your line of work? If you do, how do you deal with those situations?
Thanks!


This is a good letter – it’s not my area of expertise, but still, they’re simple, short-answer questions, and I appreciate that.

My reply: Well, I’ve done some modeling, but not that much. I’d say ask for as much as you can get, and be willing to be flexible. A hundred an hour for girl/girl seems reasonable. Since that means there’ll be another girl there with you, when you do the gig, ask her what she gets paid, and adjust your future expectations accordingly.

The safety thing? Well, it’s an issue, yeah, but not a huge one. Ask the photographer for a reference from another model and check it. If you go through one of the sites like OneModelPlace.com, there are often links on the photographer's pages to models they’ve worked with, so that helps with a ref check. Or take a friend with you. It’s not necessary that it be a big man, even another woman is helpful. But generally, if the guy is a pro who’s obviously been around for a while, you’ll be fine. If you want a modeling adventure, look up my pal Jeff Gord at HouseOfGord.com. No sex required to model for him – hell, half the time you don’t even get naked. But it’s never a dull moment, I promise you.

And read this book. It’s got a lot of good info about how to spot bad people. Good luck getting that Visa bill down, that’s a very worthy goal.

***

I have a question: is pure domination for money legal? I am a kinky person,
so in my personal life I do quite a bit of role-play and domination, dress-up etc. I have recently been asked by an acquaintance to do this for pay. Specifically, he wants to pay me $300 an hour to clean my house while I talk to him. I told him that I would need to have him interviewed by a panel of my friends and go through a WA state patrol background check first, which he has agreed to, and he has also given me references to check…My question is: if he pays me to clean my house while I talk mean to him, is that illegal? He also said he might want to rub my feet, feed me grapes, or cook dinner for me and some lady friends. Does him touching me, even my feet, equal illegal touching? (Like for the strippers in town with the new laws). I really enjoy teaching men how to serve the goddess in ways which are positive and enjoyable, so as long as he is not asking me to actually have physical of sex with him or to physically harm him, I will be OK with this.
I am just wondering if I can declare this and income for my small business and then write off expenses (costumes, etc),or is this sort of work only to be paid in cash, under-the-table and not reported? And where would I find a kink-friendly accountant?

This is a good letter in the sense that it’s clear and specific. I like that. However, she’s asking me questions that it’s hard for me to answer. I get this kind of “is-such-and-such-legal?” question all the time, but I’m not a lawyer, so I don't give legal advice. My understanding of the law is that it’s a vague and flexible instrument, and it’s written that way on purpose. (For one thing, if ordinary people could understand the law clearly, we wouldn’t need lawyers. So lawyers make sure it’s complicated.)

My point of view is that if law enforcement wants to arrest you, they’ll find something to charge you with. Whether they get a conviction or not is a whole other issue. However, if you don’t advertise your services and just do sessions with this one guy, I would say your odds of attracting enough attention to get arrested are vanishingly small. If you want to expand and go public, as it were, then that changes things and you need to retain a lawyer to advise you.

And, yes, traditionally these transaction are done in cash. Naturally I am not advising you to cheat on your taxes. (I certainly pay mine, ow.) But there are a lot of places in the world to spend cash.

A kinky accountant? I don’t know anyone whose name I can give out, sorry. That seems premature anyway. Even if this guy gets a session from you every month, that’s not so much money that you’d need an accountant to handle it. And even if you wind up making more, if you already have a small business tax model in place, why would you need to tell an accountant what you did to get that money?

***

Dear Mistress,

My ex roommate and I used to do Dom in Seattle, but it was her set-up and the only things that I did was assist. I would like to have my own Dungeon , but (as embarrassing as it is to admit) I have no idea where to start. Can you give a novice some advice on getting going? Please Mistress?

Okay, before I begin, let me just say this: this letter is no worse than many, many other emails almost exactly like it that I get every week. I’m using this one as an example. Unfortunately for this writer, she's a bad example. But this writer is just one member of a big club, and I am speaking not only to her but to everyone who’s ever written me an email just like this one.

I had a certain nun as a teacher when I was a kid – Sister Mary David. And one of Sister Mary David’s things was intellectual laziness. She was against it, to put it mildly. Woe betide the kid who asked Sister how to spell a word, or whether a platypus was a mammal or a amphibian, or what the capitol of Maine was. “Look it up!” she’d say, slapping her hand on the lectern. “Don’t ask me to do your schoolwork for you. That’s intellectual laziness.” She’d draw out the “a” in lazy, and then sort of hiss out the final sibilants like a snake.

The Jesuits say if you give them a child until he is six, he is theirs forever. I had nuns just like Sister Mary David until I was 17, and they definitely left an impression on me. I have a horror of intellectual laziness. If I want to know something, my first instinct: look it up. Growing up I was convinced that everything worth knowing was in a book somewhere, one just had to find it. And now with the web, well, there’s no excuse for not knowing anything about whatever it is you’re interested in. Max often refers to me as The Research Department, and he’s not really kidding. If I cannot find what I need, then I will certainly ask for help. But I do not do that until I have exhausted my own resources. Asking other people to think for me so I don’t have to is intellectual laziness.

This writer is being intellectually lazy. As far as I can see, she’s made no effort to find out for herself what she wants to know. Hell, I myself am not really clear on exactly what it is she’s asking for, since her question is extremely broad. Some advice on getting going? Sure, I’ve got some advice: Don’t take any wooden nickels. If you want a better answer, then you need to work harder on phrasing a better question.

Sending me this kind of email tells me that the sender has not done any home work on me and my writing, or else she would have seen the various other rants I have published, both here and in the Stranger, about exactly this kind of thing. Before you ask me a question, go and ask Mistress Google if I’ve answered it before. Even a basic search on how to become a professional dominatrix yields some leads. There are books to read, too.

I’m hoping this writer doesn’t really need me to take her by the hand and say, “Okay, honey, well, first you’d need to decide where you’re going to see your clients, and then you’d need to get your equipment, and then you’d need to advertise somewhere….” Because if you need someone to take you through even the most basic of steps, you are so not ready to run your own business. Not now, and maybe not ever.

But hey, I’m willing to accept that maybe she’s already got all that stuff worked out, and she means something else. But I don’t know, because she hasn’t told me what she's done to solve this problem. That’s another thing Sister Mary David used to say: show your work. Show me you’ve made an effort to find out the answer to your question before you ask me to answer it for you.

Do I sound harsh? I don’t think that this writer is a bad person, and I’m not trying to make her feel bad about herself. But you don’t know the volume of emails I get that look just like this. It makes me cringe for the state of the American educational system. And the nuns, at least, were employed to teach children. I myself don’t get paid to answer emails like this. I just do it as a favor to the sender, because I’m nice and I’m happy to be helpful if I can. But it’s unrealistic to expect me to take time away from my very busy life to spoonfeed a total stranger who shows me no evidence of trying to help themselves.

I could just ignore emails like this – I usually do, in fact. However, my point is that I’m not averse to sharing my knowledge, but you must show me your own effort first, and you must make it easy for me to help you.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I've gotten a slew of letters from people wanting sex-work advice lately. So tomorrow, look for a lengthy post answering them.

But today, the new column.

And I just have to mention this...I got a manicure yesterday and got my nails painted a deep red. Now, I think the last time I had a manicure was for my wedding. That was 1999. I am not a girl who bothers much about my fingernails. I think it's a holdover from my days as a lesbian. (Not that I don't know femme lesbians with nails that would put Barbra Streisand to shame.)

I used to paint my toenails, but some of my more enthusiastic foot-worshippers kept chipping the polish with their teeth. I had to patch it a lot, and plus I thought eating the polish couldn't be good for them. So I stopped.

However, one of my good clients, Jet, expressed a wish to see me with painted nails, and gave me a gift certificate to my salon to have that done. So I did. And it worked out so that I went straight from the salon to a session with him, and he liked it, so that was all just fine.

But now I have these red nails. I cannot recall ever having had my nails this color before. It's pretty, but it's sort of weird. My hands look like someone else's. Max looked at them and said, "Huh. Well, that's a different look for you."

I'm very concious of them - I'm sort of walking around with like, jazz hands, because I don't want to chip the polish, although it's inevitable that I will, of course.

I suppose I just want to acknowledge the girls who do this every day - this seems like a lot of work. Wow. I don't know how you manage it. I'm impressed.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Unconnected Musings

Fashion: Saturday night I did something I thought I’d never do again: I tucked my skinny jeans into my tall boots. Now, I was a little girl last time this was really fashionable, but I do remember it, and I remember how it can sometimes be a disastrously bad fashion choice, if one doesn’t get the proper combination of boots, pants, and hips. You must get dressed and then get a second mirror, so that you can take a good long look at your behind in a full-length mirror. And then one must be brutally honest with oneself about whether it’s really flattering.

I decided to take the plunge. I figured, hey, I’m going out to dinner on Broadway, and it’s Halloween weekend. People will just think it’s my costume. I was conscious that if I wore the funky little black fake-fur jacket I picked up in Chicago and teased my hair out a bit, I’d look exactly like every street hooker ever portrayed in a 70’s-80’s made-for-TV movie. So I decided not to. Being a hooker for Halloween is such a cliché.

Max liked it, so that was reassuring. But I still felt a little odd. I suppose it’s how my mother would feel if beehive hairdos came back into style. It’s the vague sense that while I want to keep my look fresh, I cannot claim ignorance if I wear this and wind up looking like a fashion Don’t, because I should know better.

But now, help me out, sharp-eyed readers. Is this coat the same as this coat? They look awfully alike. And I need to make a choice here, because one of my favorite guys (who I will hereby dub Armani, because he’s definitely one of the best-dressed man of my acquaintance) has said he wants to buy me a coat for my birthday. I think one of these is the one I want. I want him to look at it, because Armani knows from clothes when it comes to women, too. But really – are these the same thing?

Podcasts: I may start doing podcasts. I’ve been considering it, and one of the reasons I like the idea is that it’s something Max could do with me. He won’t blog, no matter how much I nag him, and he doesn’t want his picture floating around the web, but I think he’d be willing to talk, if I get the system in place, get the headset on him and ask him questions. I’m sure I’d have Roman on sometimes too, and we could have other guests, as well. It wouldn’t be an everyday thing, but I think I could put out something semi-regularly.

I haven’t decided about buying software and hosting it myself vs paying a specialized hosting company. In general, I'm a girl who doesn't mind paying for convenience, so I'd lean towards the hosting thing. But I'm concerned about getting into a TOS snarl because of course, I'll be talking about adult stuff.

A sharp-witted friend suggestion I ask The Stranger about hosting it for me, which I am going to do. Max said I might also ask Babeland – both outfits I’d be perfectly happy to plug in return for hosting.

Thoughts or suggestions about podcasting from active podcasters? Gray, I looked at the site for the software you seem to be using, and Minx, I saw that you're using a hosting company, yes? Anyone else want to weigh in?

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Girls on Film

Every few weeks someone sends me an email that says something like, “Hey, how come you don’t make DVDs? It would be so cool, and you’d make lots of money.” And I noticed that Roman was getting some of the same remarks after he posted his video clips the other day.

Well, kids, I did produce a fetish video of my own*- about six years ago. And that’s how I know I’m not interested in making another anytime soon. Why? A lot of work. Legal risks. And not much profit.

See, at the beginning, I connected with a very cool guy with a lot of video experience, and we put together a concept. The technical end of lights, camera and sound was his job. I was the star, of course, but at the same time I was also the writer, the director and the producer, plus I also found all the talent.

And I discovered that being all those things was a lot of work. And I mean work, too, not like playing with my clients. I was surprised by that, because the co-stars were all pals of mine, and they were all just great. But when we were shooting, I could not relax and get into it, I had to direct from in front of the camera. It was not fun, it was not a turn-on, it was just - work. Max could tell you how cranky and exhausted I was after a day of shooting. This is how I know I was not supposed to be in show business.

So I was immensely relieved when we had all the footage we needed. And then my partner said, oh, we need some interview footage of you. So I did that. Redeeming social value and all, you know, have to cover one’s ass.

My partner went into his editing bay and in time produced a really nicely done, professional-looking video that we were both quite proud of. I have nothing to complain of on that score, he did a very good job.

He got two hundred tapes made and gave them to me. This was back when Paypal would still process payments for sexy things, so I put up a page on my site, and waited for the orders. Meanwhile, my partner hunted around to see what he could find out about getting it distributed on a wider scale.

Long story short: we couldn’t get a distributor. Since there isn’t any actual fucking in my video, just BDSM play, I can’t say I was hugely surprised.

Then, Paypal announced it would no longer process payments for anything even slightly adult. I tried other payment processing systems, but they all proved hard to use and unreliable, and people were understandably reluctant to trust them with their financial information. I considered getting a merchant account, but the costs were prohibitive and at that time, the credit card companies were levying heavy fees and complex rules on adult accounts. Going through all that to sell three or four forty-dollar videos a month would be absurd.

Next, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the DOJ made sweeping changes to the 2257 Regulations and declared war on porn. The legal challenge to the new law is still churning through the courts, I believe, but right now there’s no way I can fullfill all the legal requirements for adult entertainment record-keeping. The whole situation is very intimidating – just as it’s meant to be – and I don’t want to deal with it.

In the end, I sold those two hundred videos, which means I made my expenses back, and a little profit - the equivalent of about a week's gross in my regular life. Not exactly big bucks, when I think about how many hours of my time I put in for that money - some of it time in which I could have been seeing clients.

So another video? Let’s see, it’s a lot of work, and not that much fun, and not that much money. I have no easy, inexpensive way to collect payments for it. And I’d be plunging into a legal maelstrom of regulations, red tape, and repressive laws. Yeah. Not such a great idea from where I sit. Not when I make a very nice living, doing stuff I like to do, without having to worry about the feds coming to investigate me.

I suppose there’s a very slim chance I could do another one - after the next presidential election, if we elect someone less insane than the current crew. Even then I’d probably just do downloads, rather than fuss with shipping a physical product. And they would be - how shall I say? – informal. I’d say to the cameraman, “Look, I’m going to get kinky with my friend here, and you just shoot us. Stay out of my way, don’t talk to me, and whatever we get, we get. But I’m not going to try to act or perform for the camera.”

However, it definitely won’t be anytime soon.


(*Yes, on VHS. No, it’s not available on DVD. No, sorry, you can’t buy one, I sold the ones I had and I’m not getting any more made.)