“Go to bed, Roman,” snaps Gerri Kellman dismissively, in a scene from Season Two of Succession. Rolling her eyes, she places her martini glass down as she scolds the youngest Roy brother, the “revolting little worm” who, at this point in the show, is technically her boss. “Go to bed, masturbate all your ideas out and let’s see how excited you get tomorrow.” Roman flops himself down onto his mattress, unbuckling his belt. “Maybe I will,” he jabs back. “Maybe I’ll just place you on the pillow so you can hear my brilliance cascading.”
A series of emotions flicker across Gerri’s face: disgust, arousal and then bemusement, as she realizes her so-called “slime puppy” is actually jerking off as she degrades him.
It’s a classic BDSM dynamic: Gerri is the ball-busting matriarch, Roman is the willfully pathetic sub begging to be punished and humiliated by a dominant, often maternal older woman. Roman has become the subject of near-universal thirst online thanks to his flirtatious confidence and chaotically horny energy, but this unhinged, libidinous businessman isn’t unique to Succession. There are plenty of IRL Romans out there — and nobody knows them better than their beloved mommy dommes.
Peepshow Magazine co-founder Jessie Sage is the Gerri for a number of submissive men whose interests fall in line with Roman’s. She fell into mommy domination by accident early into her sex-work career, which started around six years ago. At the time, she was largely working as a phone sex operator. “I mostly do girlfriend experience, but one particualar guy didn’t want that,” Sage says of her first-ever Roman. “He wanted spanking, and he wanted me to tick off all the times he would whip himself with a belt.”
The client started calling regularly, and began alluding to her as a sort of “punishing mommy.” After a few calls, Sage felt this was a “role [she] could take on pretty easily.” “I have a nurturing personality, and the fact that there were subs who wanted me to work this into domming meant it was something I could connect to more easily,” she says. “I’m good at playing this role of the mommy who knows what you need and wants to give it to you.”
As fans of Succession know, Roman has mommy issues — he’s basically a small-bodied man-child, as alluded to by his colleague’s barbs that he’s a “toddler with a hard-on.” Sage theorizes that this probably checks out for plenty of real-life Romans, too. “I think that a lot of them have felt cut off from the sort of maternal love and acceptance that they crave,” explains Sage. “Some of them have said this to me as well, so I’m not just guessing. Being able to explore that in the sexual arena is really powerful — [mommy domination] satisfies a deep longing for love and acceptance, even if it comes after being punished.”
In fact, to some subs, punishment, denial, discipline and humiliation read like attention and love — it takes energy, thought, care and foresight to exert dominance over someone, and for anyone who’s felt neglected by their real mommies, the punishing hand of a powerful woman can feel like a warm embrace. Like the brash, no-fucks-given character of Gerri, it’s all about nailing a push-and-pull dynamic of reward and discipline.
In the latest season — spoiler alert ahead — Roman’s dad straight-up jokes: “You may want to fuck your mother, but I’m okay in that department.” There’s always been an Oedipal dynamic to the Roman-Gerri dynamic, but this jab misunderstands mommy domination — it’s not about actually fucking your mom, it’s about craving the control of a horny matriarch (who, by the way, doesn’t need to be maternal at all — it can just be an authoritative older woman, too). “It isn’t incest role-play,” says New York-based dominatrix Victoria Silver. “It’s not about your mother per se, or some weird Oedipal kink. It’s about relinquishing control to a powerful woman who can and will care for you as you allow yourself to regress.”
At just 23, Silver might seem too young to be a mommy domme — but she says age isn’t important unless the MILF appearance is part of your kink. The IRL Romans she meets generally crave one of either two “mommy” archetypes. “Sometimes it’s mean mommy: corporeal punishment, humiliation, diaper-soiling. Other times, it’s about care, support and emotional validation.”
Just like Roman himself — who never actually has sex with Gerri — plenty of these guys aren’t in it to fuck or be fucked, and there’s very little actual sex, if any. “Sometimes, the punishing part leads into the nurturing part,” continues Sage. “Clients will want to come and say they’ve been bad or that they’ve done something they shouldn’t, like playing with their penis. Then, they’ll come back to say sorry — at that point, some don’t want punishment at all. They want to be nurtured, called a ‘good boy’ or be held.”
This checks out for Roman, who gets a horny thrill from being punished and then rewarded. The best example is the — another spoiler alert — now-infamous dick pic scene. When the coolly distant Gerri sends him a simple “well done, Roman” text, he works himself into an excitable frenzy over the modicum of praise she gives him, which results in him sending a regrettable dick pic, not to her, but to his dad (it was an accident!).
The internet may be thirsting over Roman, but Gerri is the real trade of Succession — she’s foul-mouthed and dominant, but nurturing enough to keep her kinky, young coworker clamoring for her attention. And although she’s not actually a mommy domme in the show — she’s just a high-powered older woman who knows how to puppet-master Roman’s subby side — her character has opened up more nuanced conversations around mommy kink. “In part due to Succession, mommy dommes are becoming more normalized and openly spoken about,” concludes Silver. “The accuracy [of their relationship] trumps other depictions of dom/sub dynamics — it shows the complexity.”
Likewise, Roman isn’t a straight-up fetishist or a “sicko,” as his father implies. Rather, he’s a complicated, willfully sexless guy who wants to be nurtured and humiliated all at once. It’s a more nuanced sexuality that transcends the norms of heterosexual penetrative boning, but if the comments on the earlier-mentioned scene are anything to go by, it’s also one that’s resonating with a lot of people.
“I’ve never been into humiliation play,” writes one guy. “This scene changed my mind. Yes ma’am, please tell me I’m worthless.”