When Mistress calls, Charles, 61, cleans her dungeon. Mistress works out of one of the many commercial BDSM studios across L.A., and they’re all in desperate need of a caring touch. He gets on his hands and knees to wax the floors, dust the furniture and polish the articles of discipline and humiliation (the flogs, chains, tweezers and clamps) until they’re spick-and-span. Mistress makes the rules, and Mistress sets the agenda. Charles has helped her move furniture. He’s driven her to the airport. He’s washed her car. And as someone who makes a vanilla living in computers, he’s currently building her a new website and managing her eBay hustle. “It’s helping her wherever she needs it,” he tells me over the phone. “To just be of service to her.”
Mistress Georgia Payne has been a dominatrix for 20 years, and during most of that time, Charles has been a part of her life. In the beginning, he was just like her other clients — a paying customer for submissive, masochistic and erotic services. But as time went on, he slowly ripened into what she calls her personal “slave.” As Charles explains, it happened naturally — endless sessions compounding on top of each other, Georgia trusted him enough to take the next step.
Unlike formal customers, house slaves don’t typically pay their dommes to participate in their labor. For some, like Charles, that makes the dynamic more intimate. For others, it’s simply a cheaper way to indulge in submission if you don’t have the disposable income available. Reservations with a professional domme can be expensive, averaging around $200 to $300 an hour, but plenty of women in the scene won’t charge for the right to take out their trash or the other domestic tasks house slaves live for. Mistress Georgia, for her part, says this isn’t the type of play she routinely involves herself in. “There’s only been two slaves I’ve allowed close to me,” she says, making note of her extremely private life, which includes children, a husband and career as a vice president of a company. “I have to be super careful.”
Similarly, Georgia is the only Mistress Charles has ever served, and he takes pride in being the exception to the rule. He’s “collared” to his Mistress — scene shorthand for anyone who excels in their servitude — and tells me he expects to be in her life for the rest of his. What a blessing it is, he explains, to lie in a hospital bed and shake off your mortal coil surrounded by the defining figures in your existence — your family, your friends, your Mistress.
It’s why he’s quick to clarify that the true joy of his bondage isn’t the labor, it’s the opportunity to be “honest and open” with a domme — to include her in the rest of his existence. “In time, you eventually have conversations; you go out to lunch or go to dinner; and it just evolves,” he says. “There’s still a divide between Mistress and slave, but there’s a strong bond. I’ve been married. I’ve had girlfriends. But even in those relationships, there’s a certain amount you keep to yourself, that you may or may not bring out. With the relationship with her, I can tell her anything. It’s very honest and very refreshing.”
To be clear, Mistress Georgia is unique compared to other dommes. Over the phone, she reiterates that she seldom merges her private life with her dungeon, while admitting that other professionals in the industry are generally more lenient. “A lot of them, if they need something done, like errands or home chores or whatever, they’ll let people in their home that they really don’t know all that well,” she says. “That’s not me at all.”
Sure enough, if you browse a few nexus points in the BDSM community — FetLife and CollarMe (RIP) — you’ll find reams of ads posted by both private and professional Mistresses looking for a free hand or two. The laborers are eager and free-of-charge, all they ask is that the work is dressed up in a loose veneer of feminine authority. If you’re a Domme — especially if you’re young and overworked — how could you turn down the perks of consensual, mutually-beneficial enslavement? Especially when the bargain is so one-sided. Between his custodial duties, Charles still pays for traditional sessions with Georgia, but other house slaves accept their burden with no hope for any future dividends.
According to “Bondsman,” a slave introduced to me by the L.A. Domme Simone Justice, this is the part of the deal. “Most slaves think that serving a Domme is going to be like the FemDom erotica they read where the Mistresses seem to spend every waking hour thinking about how they will torment their slaves. The reality is that being a house slave to a Domme is more like a part-time job where you don’t get paid,” he writes via email. “You don’t get much attention as a personal slave, and you don’t get played with very often.”
Bondsman’s workload is humble — i.e., dishes, laundry, grocery shopping — but unlike Charles, he estimates that he’s served more than 20 Mistresses (not counting the women he’s been loaned out to) during the two decades he’s spent in the scene. The quickest way to establish servitude, he explains, is to session with a Domme and let her know you’re interested in personal service: “There’s no guarantee, but there’s an excellent chance that either Her or one of Her Friends may well be interested.”
Kink-wise, Bondsman contains multitudes. Over the years, he’s developed strong, complex relationships with a few select Dommes, but he’s also worked under women he barely knew. Sometimes he prefers the coldness that comes with that lack of familiarity — if you truly want to feel like a personal slave, find someone who values you for your labor and nothing else. Obviously, dish-washing and clothes-folding aren’t innately erotic in the way that chastity play or humiliation is, but Bondsman says some of his best experiences have come with Mistresses capable of injecting a genuine fear of failure into his bones — that, for instance, there will be absolute hell to pay if you’re late with the groceries. “I’m not at all masochistic, and during this time, I felt the business end of my Owner’s whip more times than I care to remember,” he offers.
Overall though, Bondsman maintains that the work of a house slave isn’t a tactile sexual experience. Instead, he says, it’s closer to a mental high or a meditation; a slow-paced exercise in obedience stretched out to its absolute extremes. Mistress Georgia diagnoses it artfully when she references a slave who serves as a groundskeeper for a dungeon called the Chi Temple that she rents with another domme. “He just goes to the temple every week and cleans it top to bottom,” says Georgia. “For the most part, we don’t play with him; his mentality is that the session is going on in his mind.”
For those who commit to a single Mistress for a long period of time, the thrills of servitude are more wholesome and rooted in messy, organic feelings. Case in point: Charles doesn’t slave for Georgia when he’s dating someone, and he tells me that his submissive side doesn’t necessarily carry over into his vanilla love life. “It’s always about the woman,” he clarifies. “If she’s submissive, I’m dominant. If she’s dominant, I’m submissive. If she wants an equal, I’m an equal.”
Like Bondsman, he, too, finds no acute erotic deliverance in managing Mistress’ eBay account. He’s mostly rewarded with gratitude and small parcels of cherished, sensitive information. He knows Mistress’ real name and where she lives — something other clients can only dream about. When they go out to dinner they talk about sex, family and the weather. “All of the things that make up our lives,” he says.
“You might not tell your wife something because you think she might think badly of it, but you can tell that to your Mistress. She may humiliate you for it, but she won’t think badly of you,” he explains. “The deepness and fondness of the love for each other is just as great in either one.”
It’s the same with every other slave I spoke to: While they may have sampled a full catalog of Dommes, the ones they clicked with — the ones that gave them butterflies — unlocked true euphoria.
“The actual feeling of domestic servitude is this: I truly worship my Mistress, and within that, I want her life to be as successful and happy as it can be,” says an anonymous scenester, also based in California. “My cleaning and service should be nearly invisible to her, so that she doesn’t have to think about these things, and hopefully, this will free her life for more pleasurable thoughts and activities. If I feel successful at doing these things, it’s both personally fulfilling as well as sexually exciting. If I feel I have failed at anything, it’s an unpleasant and miserable feeling. Fortunately, I have a Mistress who’s very understanding, and I like to think I detect faint notes of true affection here and there.”
Still, Mistress Georgia stops herself before she calls Charles a friend. (“He’s a slave and will always be a slave,” she responds when I ask.) That said, she still participates in the communion offered between people who have known each other for a long time. Over the holidays, when Charles’ aunt fell ill, Georgia was a constant presence — checking in, listening, providing the warm emotional labor that get us all through our worst moments. It didn’t change, however, their core dynamic: “It mimics friendship, but the hierarchy is always there.”
This is the golden rule: No matter how close a Mistress and a slave might get to the edges, the central fantasy remains. For some, that can be too much to bear. Bondsman says he spent two wonderful years with a Domme he fell in love with. “Each time I washed a dish, swept Her floor or took out the trash, I felt as if I were the luckiest man who’d ever lived in the whole entire history of the human race,” he explains.
Sadly, their relationship imploded after Mistress fell in love with someone in her private life, and Bondsman couldn’t quite swallow his jealousy. As he explains, it’s one thing to consider yourself subservient to a Mistress, it’s another to accept your inferiority to another man.
Bondsman says he doesn’t hold any grudges against his former Domme, but it has caused him to reconsider how severely he’s willing to play with the fetish going forward. “I’m the one who chose to present myself as a thing unworthy of respect so why should I be surprised when I’m treated that way?” he asks. “Part of me is thinking now that this part of my life is perhaps best relegated to fantasy. I’m not sure. Still sorting it out.”
In other words, it’s all the familiar volatility of love, just filtered through the discipline of labor.
“We know each other very well,” says Charles, when I ask him what he’s learned after 20 years with Mistress Georgia. “She knows me better than I’d like to admit, and in many ways, I probably know her better than she’d like to admit. She knows where all my buttons are. And rest assured, she pushes them.”