Are you considering a career in BDSM?
Power exchange, shibari, sensation play, fetishes, roleplays...there’s so much to kink! For many, it’s an exciting world that provides new avenues of exploration, learning...and, of course, revenue.
But stepping into that world isn’t necessarily straightforward. Whether you’re a sex worker who’d love to specialise in BDSM or an enthusiast hoping to monetise your skills, there’s a steep learning curve when it comes to mastering the breadth of knowledge required for a career in professional BDSM.
Here’s some helpful advice, from someone who’s walked that path. Sai Jaiden Lillith - Mebourne-based fetish escort - joins us to share their advice on becoming - and thriving as - a kink pro.
What is BDSM?
‘Kink’ includes a variety of out-of-the-ordinary activities that are often (but not always) sexual or sexually charged. Similarly, the acronym ‘BDSM’ references a number of sexual adventures: bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism, and masochism. But it also includes many other possibilities. Some popular kink/BDSM activities include:
- Bondage - being tied up or incapacitated. Some specific disciplines might use other names, eg, shibari (the practice of Japanese rope bondage).
- Domination/submission - also known as ‘power exchange’ - taking control during a play session (domination), or giving up some of your control to another person (submission).
- Sadism/masochism - enjoying inflicting pain on someone (sadism), or having it inflicted on you (masochism), consensually, of course! This might involve implements such as floggers, canes, paddles, or spanking.
- Role play - acting out a fantasy scenario with play partners (such as nurse/patient, interrogator/prisoner, etc)
- Fetishes - erotic practices incolving specific objects such as feet, latex, or leather.
This is by no means a complete list, so if your favourite activity isn’t mentioned, please don’t think you’ve been forgotten! Kink and BDSM is a broad area and - as we’ll soon discuss - it means different things to different people.
In recent times, kink has moved into the mainstream via porn, pop culture, and social media. Lots of folks have experimented with this stuff, and for some folks it’s an essential part of their sex lives.
What is a kink professional?
So, that’s kink...but what about professional kink? Kink professionals are sex workers who specialise in BDSM activities. They’re well-versed in a range of fantasies and experienced with a variety of BDSM equipment.
Sex workers who specialise in kink and BDSM are sometimes known by the term ‘professional mistress/master’, ‘pro domme’, ‘kink professional’ or ‘fetish escort’. Some workers don’t offer penetrative sex as part of their services, while others provide ‘full service’ alongside other BDSM activities.
Fetish escort Sai Jaiden Lilith is an accomplished professional kinkster. They describe themselves as a master, mistress, pro domme, companion, and shibari artist. Alongside Mistress Penelope Dreadful, they run the well-known Domina Parties event across Australia. They also produce online fetish content.
Sai began to explore both kink and sex work simultaneously. “I got into pro kink really early in my sexual career. It was literally my third or fourth client. I'd put up a bunch of ads with various gender presentations...this bloke contacted me saying, ‘I don't know if you're a mistress - you kind of look like one - but my mistress is out of town, would you do this?’ I said, ‘I've never done it before in my life, but you're paying me I'll give it a crack!’”
The career change was long overdue. Sai hated their previous corporate roles and were relieved to find work that allowed them to be more authentic. “Sex work really engages those creative parts of me. I have a need for transgression in my life...there are so many stupid things I've done in the name of transgression and now I get to transgress with a purpose, you know?”
Their BDSM practice harmonises with their nonbinary gender identity, spirituality, and political beliefs. “I did find a lot of my power through femininity...I had a bit of an awakening experience so to speak. I found that kinky identity.”
Doing kink professionally requires the self-awareness to balance your priorities.
Just as sex at work can be more demanding than sex at home, working as a BDSM professional requires a shift in focus.
Sai points out that, often, you’ll be playing with people you wouldn’t normally. “..I mean there is an element of my own enjoyment…[with] my long term clients, our needs do align,” they say. But the job also demands flexibility. “You can try and make it work for someone that you don't quite click with, and it can work, but it's going to take it out of you. That's what you're being asked to do.”
It would be easy to assume that paid work is less authentic. But according to Sai, it’s neither better nor worse - just different. “Performative isn't necessarily a negative. I hear this thrown around so much in authentic conscious communities, that performance is the enemy. Actually, it's not. It's a way of expressing what's in you.”
Sometimes, performance - being louder during sex, for example - gives us the freedom to explore behaviour that would normally feel foreign. “There's nothing wrong with learning those ways of interacting. It makes everything fun. The only problem is if you're just throwing that stuff out unconsciously as a people pleasing thing, as opposed to something that feeds you.”
As with all kink play, your play partner’s needs and safety are paramount. But other considerations - such as income - also become a factor. “Within a professional BDSM context, you are in service to that client. At the end of the day, if they don't get what they want, they won't come back. And if you're doing this for a living, then you need to consider that.”
Professionalism means being self-aware enough to balance these competing priorities. Sai says, “If you're going to do it safely, ethically, and morally, it's a lot of work.”
Don’t assume that kink porn looks anything like professional kink.
Is porn a good place to learn? Although it can provide inspiration, there’s a lot missing. If porn is your sole source of information, you might have unrealistic expectations.
“Don't assume porn is anything you should learn from, right?” Sai says, “It depends what kind of kink porn you're watching, because not all kink porn is ethical or safe. But even in the best case scenario, there's been so much negotiation beforehand to get to the scene where they're just throwing [the submissive] around.”
Often, this communication isn’t included in the final cut, but it’s an essential part of the process. This doesn’t mean giving up on the element of surprise, as long as you do the work first. “A lot of people, myself included, don't want to know every step of the way. I want to be surprised. I want to feel that rush. But the only way you get to that place is to talk about it a lot beforehand.”
Porn omits other important details, too. “In most porn, they're not showing you the fluffing. They're not showing you the lube that gets put on before someone sticks something somewhere. They're not showing you that someone's been warmed up beforehand. That's something like I've been trying to bring into my own work. We're gonna keep the bit where someone reaches for lube, because lube is fun, lube is sexy! Most people aren't like washing machines that are constantly wet, you know? And dicks aren’t hard all the time.”
No matter how dominant you are, it’s not about taking a power trip.
When I talk to regular folks about kink, they sometimes say, “Wow, that sounds like a great job. I’d love to beat up guys and get paid for it.” There’s a misconception that BDSM allows us to take out our frustrations on others.
But despite the canes and floggers, Sai’s work is about positivity, not punishment. “I do everything from a place of love, even if it's the most crazy, degrading shit. At the end of the day, I have to hold in my heart that I'm doing this because I feel love for people, some sort of positive [connection].”
That doesn’t mean BDSM can’t be an emotional outlet - but it requires skill and self-awareness. “It's really easy to lose control. I've gone into play with intensely negative feelings of my own that I've worked through in the process of play and turned into something beautiful. There's no shame in that, if you can transform it positively without inflicting non-consensual harm on the other person.”
Although kink pros sometimes have larger-than-life personas, Sai cautions against ‘buying into your own hype’. “There's a misconception that being dominant is all about your ego but it's actually kind of about ego death. It's like being a good leader - it's not about just looking after your own needs as number one. My number one thing during sessions is that I know this is [my client’s] journey. I'm honored and privileged to be able to lead them through it.”
It’s just as much about personal development as it is about whips and restraints. “I've helped subs come out of their shells and I'm so proud of their progress. It would be so easy to just treat it as any other customer relations experience, where the customer is always right, but when they want something more from it, when they actually the power exchange element, you're just like, "Cool you want to better yourself, so I'm going to try and help you do that."
Training matters... traditional or otherwise.
So, how to get started? Being apprenticed in a BDSM establishment (often called a ‘dungeon’) is traditionally the most acceptable way to enter the industry, but it’s not always practical.
Sai agrees that training is important: “In an ideal scenario, you shouldn't do it unless you've had some experience..I'm definitely a very intuitive learner...but I'm really conscious of people's safety.”
But they also acknowledge that it doesn’t always happen this way. “Unfortunately, we live in a capitalist society. If I could do things perfectly, I would have gotten training...but I needed cash. I was going to be homeless. I was doing sessions, I was living in my car...so I understand about ‘just doing the thing’ because you need the money.”
Sai was lucky enough to have an experienced client who showed them the ropes. “They had this awesome dungeon at home and they basically trained me up on all this different equipment - 30-40 different floggers, 30-40 different canes. They had so much of everything, and they knew exactly what they wanted…that was an amazing way to learn, getting feedback from someone as a bottom who is also top, so they know how to tell you how to do things and how to engage in it safely.”
As soon as they had the means, Sai began to educate themselves by spending time with other professionals, including well-known kink worker and educator Mistress Tokyo. “One of the things about learning from an expert is that they've been doing it for so long, they often don't actually know the micro steps to explain something. Tokyo has been an educator for an immense amount of time, so she's really well versed. Just because you're a good pro domme doesn't mean you're going to be a good teacher. Tokyo is both, one hundred percent.”
Sai says that no training at all is generally a bad idea, and could be dangerous. Even if you can’t approach an establishment, there are still many ways to learn. “There aren't that many formal dungeons where you can get a proper training, but there are a bunch of professional dominants out there, there are kink workshops, and a lot of the time if you approach a dominant respectfully and ask them, 'What is your value that you place on your knowledge, how can I acquire this?' that's your best step up into the role. You know, invest.”
The advantages of a mentor go beyond up-skilling. “They can be your support once you start doing the work. There is that need for support, especially when you're doing heavier stuff.”
If you’re a beginner, some activities are better than others.
Sai recommends a few kinky activities as more suitable for newcomers:
- Spanking - “Because it's your hand, you're gonna understand how it feels, you can slap yourself and feel how hard you're doing it. It's very easy to be aware and safe.”
- Light cock and ball torture (CBT) - “Light CBT is actually like a no-brainer as well - if you're not smashing it, balls can take a bit of punishment.” They say that the best way to start is softly - explore a whole range of sensations, not just pain.
- Tie and tease using a blindfold - “It's the basic [option] if you're an escort wanting to get into kink. That's what I did often when I first got into... you just tie them up gently. Most people aren't going to struggle, they're going to want to have things done to their body.”
- Light domination - “Here's a very basic power exchange: 'If you don't do exactly what I tell you, I’ll stop.' That's not hard, it doesn't require years of training, but it sets a power dynamic firmly in place.”
When it comes to more complicated manoeuvres, specific training and a thorough knowledge of anatomy is recommended. For example:
- Using canes, floggers and whips
- Needle play (or anything that pierces the skin)
- Hitting someone anywhere other than their ass cheeks
- Heavy psychological play
Sai says, “I'd definitely pick up some basic anatomy. Anytime you're practicing, it's good to have the basic knowledge. In terms of bondage, always keep safety shears with you. Probably the safest thing is just getting a set of cuffs from the sex shop.”
You need to become an aftercare expert...not just for your client, but also for yourself.
The last essential Sai covers is aftercare: tending to your client’s physical and emotional needs after the play session. BDSM can be overwhelming and sometimes you need to provide reassurance, hydration and other support. “Aftercare is the number one thing to be aware of if you're going to start doing kink,” Sai says. “And it isn't just about assuming 'Oh, everyone needs hugs and cuddles after kink' because that could be really triggering for some people. Some people just want a candy bar and to talk about TV shows. It depends on the person.”
Aftercare isn’t always carried out during the session - sometimes it means checking in afterwards. “Especially with long term clients, after a session I'll check in once I get home, or the next day, in three days, maybe a week, depending on how extreme the play has been.”
Aftercare matters not just for clients, but also for providers. “If I tie eight people in a night. I'm gonna crash the next day.” Sai sometimes needs to seek reassurance from clients after a scene, or limit the intensity of play to ensure they’re honouring their own needs too.
Professional kink offers more benefits than just making a living.
For Sai, this has been a rewarding job. But becoming a kink pro takes more than just a passing interest - it also demands learning, self-awareness, and commitment.
The payoff: a creative career, with freedom to express yourself. “It gave me a healthy container to transgress,” Sai says. “All the things that I can see that are wrong with the world ...all the judgment, people being forced to live really stunted lives...let's start a fire. Let's smash the walls down.”