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November 2, 2004

Sex slave, dominatrix claim they are feminists

Glenna Grimsley, using her pseudonym Mistress Simone, and Jarith Bailey have an interesting perspective on how bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism (BDSM) relate to the feminist effort. Bailey has been a slave to a male master for four years, while Simone is a professional dominatrix who has kept female slaves with her husband for 10 years.

The two came to campus last Friday for the Gender Studies Brown Bag Lunch Talk on how BDSM relates to feminism.

Bailey is a 22-year-old student at the Harrington College of Design in Chicago. "I wear skirts five days a week, thigh-highs five days a week," she said. "He tells me whether or not I have breast implants, which I do, what my major is, where I go to school."

Grimsley listed common misconceptions about why women become involved in BDSM: "You hate men and like to hurt them, you are a lesbian venting your anger on the male sex, you were abused as a child and this is your way of coping."

Simone countered by saying she loves "men and women. I love the community that I've found."

Simone is also a professional dominatrix, a career that is separate from her household. She vehemently denies being a prostitute. "Some of my best friends are prostitutes," she said. "So it's nothing against them. But it's not what I do."

Bailey said that she and her current master met online when she was 14. He helped her with her math homework and acted as her mentor. When she went to college, they lost touch. Bailey was unhealthy in college, attempting suicide during her first exam week.

Her future master drove 800 miles to her college, picked her up, and asked her to live with him, telling her that he could help turn her life around. They did not have a physical relationship with each other until Bailey, having done some research on BDSM, suggested that they try some play.

Eventually, their roles in the bedroom became their roles in everyday life, a transition that Simone said was the common route to a BDSM lifestyle. Bailey eventually renounced all control over her person. Both Simone and Bailey said that many couples practice BDSM in the bedroom, but very few lived their life this way. Bailey said that it enabled her to "get the high [of BDSM] from mundane activities."

Bailey said a "submissive" chooses to submit to someone repeatedly, while a slave chooses to submit to someone forever. She said she attained this unquestioning faithfulness to her master through "suspension of disbelief." She repeated to herself that she was his slave and had to do what he said and eventually believed it. "I don't even think that I can leave," she said. "The point is to make the slaves believe that they can't live without their master."

Bailey said that her lifestyle aligns with feminism because she is on equal footing with people who are self-motivated. "I wouldn't have as many opportunities. I wouldn't be as driven [without my master]," she said.

Simone and Bailey attempted to defend their lifestyles to the shocked and confused reactions of audience members. Bailey said that despite the fact that she had given up control over her life four years ago, her health and safety are paramount to her role. She said that if she became unhealthy or her safety was threatened, she would end the relationship.

When asked about the problem of rape in the BDSM community, Simone said that it was a gray area. "Rape play is acceptable in the context of our community. Some women like to pretend they're being taken by force," she said. Both she and Bailey reiterated that if an action is not consented to or healthy for the participants, it is not acceptable in the community.

Both Simone and Bailey have stepchildren. Bailey's stepchildren, who are still quite young and only visit the couple for five weeks out of the year, do not know that Bailey is their father's "slave." "They know that Jarith does whatever Daddy says, but they don't know that Jarith is Daddy's slave. It's a lot like a fifties marriage in their eyes," Bailey said.

Simone's stepchildren were not told of the nature of the household until they were 18. Some members of her family accept it, and some do not.