Denver's done a fantastic job of making itself one of the most desirable places to live in the country--but that doesn't mean it's all bluebird skies, puppies playing in the park, and powder days. Scratch beneath the shiny, happy surface of the Mile High City, and you might be surprised what you find.
Mistress Saskia, 43, Dominatrix
Interview by Luc Hatlestad
I was pretty kinky in high school. I liked boys, girls, and cross-dressing boys, so I experimented a lot. I later became a queer activist and did a lot of low-paying social work.
I apprenticed at a dungeon, but they didn’t like my look because I wasn’t skinny enough. AOL was getting big, so I put up an ad and started getting 100 e-mails a week from people who said they wanted to be my slave.
I started seeing clients in my apartment. I was the first solo, professional dominatrix to have a website in Denver. I currently have three apprentices. I only hire intelligent people, and I tend to get a lot of people with social work backgrounds who are curious about power and gender.
The biggest misconception is that sex is happening, or that the women are man-haters or druggies. We don’t have sex here; our clients don’t even see our genitals.
It’s like rock climbing: People don’t necessarily want to do it every day, but they like the occasional adrenaline rush. It’s very lighthearted and fun. We call it “play” for a reason.
We bar anyone under 19 unless they have a military ID. Younger people usually don’t have the right level of maturity and aren’t going to be as discreet or safe.
The clientele tends to be primarily white males. The stereotype is that they’re all fat and old, but it’s not really true.
We don’t do things that will attack people’s core values; there’s a difference between telling someone they’re a dirty little slut and telling them they’re a bad husband and father.
I try to create boundaries with my staff so they’re not my submissives, but it’s clear here that I’m in charge. But that may be because I have the biggest boobs.
In mainstream culture, there’s just so much dancing around. In leather culture you cut through the bullshit: This is what I’m into, and if the other person says no, it’s no big deal. But if you’re married to someone who’s not into what you’re into, you’ll spend the rest of your life wanting it, not getting it, and maybe feeling ashamed of it or resenting it. To have a partner say, “That’s nice,” but not fulfill it, is just crushing.
When people say I want you to treat me like a woman, 10 years ago I’d say, “Oh, you want me to take away 40 percent of your salary, give you less credibility when you speak, and make you afraid to go out after 10 p.m. because you might get raped?!” Now I leave out the feminist rant if I want to earn money.
Two hundred bucks an hour is a lot. We want people to leave here feeling like they got their money’s worth so we can keep doing it, because it’s a blast.
The dominatrix scene has never been a huge business in Denver. We get four or five clients a week, so it pays about as much as social work did.
Some of the experiences we get to have are just amazing. When we’re 70 years old living in the nursing home, we’ll be able to say, “Wow, I did not lead a boring life. I was out there doing some amazing stuff—really, really exploring.”