DANIELLE LINDEMANN. Dominatrix

Monday, November 26, 2012 - 2:00pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

What can professional dominatrices teach us about ourselves?  Drawing upon observational fieldwork and interviews with women who work as professional dominatrices (“pro-dommes”) in New York City and San Francisco, Dominatrix: Gender, Eroticism, and Control in the Dungeon (University of Chicago Press 2012) focuses on two major ways in which the seemingly marginal social sphere of the dominatrix’s “dungeon” can shed light on the contours of American society more generally.  First, although this industry is structured around interactions that superficially appear to be inversions of the gender-power hierarchy, it is also normatively patterned, in the sense that social expectations from everyday life work themselves into the dungeon.  Pro-dommes’ interactions with their clients thus contribute to our understanding of gender, sexuality, and control by showing us what an inversion of our gender-power arrangement can look like while at the same time speaking to the persistence of this arrangement.  Secondly, the people who inhabit this social world highlightdynamics that we suppress in daily life.  While the realm of the pro-domme may appear to be an exotic corner of the social landscape, detached from everyday processes, the dominatrix’s dungeon can actually teach us more about a set of classic tensions at the heart of our daily lives: between professional and client, dominator and dominated, artist and customer, purist and commercialist, researcher and informant, man and woman, and subversion and conformity.

Danielle Lindemann received her PhD in sociology from Columbia University in 2010 and is a postdoctoral research scholar at Vanderbilt University.  Her work focuses on gender, sexuality, and culture, particularly as they relate to identity and to occupations.  She currently lives in New York—a city she loves masochistically.