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What is findom? We asked a dominatrix and a paypig to explain

Let’s be real, it’s 2021 and kink-positivity is at an all-time high. Even if your sex life is vanilla-leaning, if you’re still close-minded, judgemental and easily persuaded by stereotypes surrounding kinkiness, I suggest you get your ass out of the 1950s and into the real world. Despite its obvious existence, the origin of why people have kinks and where they come from is slightly more elusive. Doctor Jessica O’Reilly, a sexuality counsellor since 2001, explained kinks as “generally physical and psychological. As we learn to associate an object or experience with arousal, the two become tied together, so ultimately we develop fetishes through experience.”

Ever since Fifty Shades of Grey arrived on the bookshelves, tantalising a nation of middle-aged women, BDSM has been painted in the public eye involving whips, chains… you get the picture. For many, that’s where the kinkiness ends. Others have slightly more niche tastes. But what if I told you there’s a sexual fetish that revolves around something that, quite literally, makes the money go round? That’s right, I’m talking about financial domination, also known as findom. So let’s leave prejudice at the door, buckle up and explore the kinky world of findom.

What is findom?

Still not entirely sure what I’m even talking about? Don’t worry, you’re not aloneit took my head a while to get around as well, but you don’t have to be into it to understand it. As always, we have trusty Wikipedia to clarify things. The online encyclopedia describes financial domination as “a sexual fetish, in particular a practice of dominance and submission, in which a submissive gives gifts and money to a financial dominant.”

The page continues to note that “the relation may often be accompanied by other practices of BDSM, such as erotic humiliation, but there may be virtually no further intimacy between the individuals. The relationship between the submissive and the dominant may take place solely via online communication, but it is not uncommon for the submissive to accompany the dominant while shopping and paying with the submissive’s money.”

Why do people do it?

So the definition is pretty clear on paper: it’s a fetish where submissives, known as ‘paypigs’, get a kick out of giving their money to dominants, known as ‘findommes’. This dynamic is usually portrayed as a submissive man and dominant woman, however, this isn’t strictly the case.

But why do people do it? Well, what better way to find out than from the mouths of people actually involved in it themselves? I managed to track down a financial dominatrix, Maria*, and self-proclaimed paypig, Alex*, to ask them why they’re drawn to the fetish.

Maria admits she basically “stumbled into” the fetish, as someone she was talking to started begging her for her PayPal details. No, this wasn’t some poor attempt at identity fraud, the man actually wanted to give her money. She said, “I woke up with 50 quid in my account and a dress on the way from Lovehoney.”

She continued, “During the pandemic, I opened up an OnlyFans with the intention of finding other submissivesnot everything was financial, I’ve also dabbled into other stuff. So yeah, I’m involved with other forms of BDSM but due to the pandemic I’ve been mainly online and had very little physical experiences at the moment.”

But why do people take part in the fetish in the first place? Surely, if someone was to chose to participate or buy sex work, your would opt for an ‘in person’ session… you know, to have physical touch, at least? Maria replied, “I think, like many BDSM practices, it’s either a relinquishing or a taking of control perhaps that you don’t have in life.” This, in many ways, is somewhat understandablehaving someone take control of your money, your capital, is arguably one of the most personal and life-altering things that you can give up.

In fact, the element of distance in giving away money to essentially a stranger over the internet is what some paypigs find so appealing. Alex shared that “it’s about humiliation and giving control to someone else. This is amplified when you’re doing it through a screen, rather than in person. I’m not entirely sure why I’m into it, I just am. I did try and deny it at first but now I’ve got to the point where I feel there’s no point in hiding itI may as well embrace my kinks. I don’t think they define me as a person in my vanilla life.”

But... is it actually ethical?

To be honest, you have to respect Alex’s choice for embracing his kinkhowever strange it may sound to people outside of it. However, it does raise the question, is it actually ethical? Some may argue that the very practice of financial domination is exploitive, especially when you’re taking into account an element that is so critical to our daily lives.

When asked whether she ever feels guilty taking money from men, Maria replied: “I have never felt guilty taking money from men. I’ve experienced so much sexual harassment and assault in my lifeso many unsolicited dick pics during my experience in online sex work. I actually see it as reparations for the patriarchy.”

For some dommes, it goes beyond just making cash, it can actually add value to their own lives. As Maria explained, “I actually enjoy the practice and the feeling of being a domme in general. It gave me a voice I didn’t know I hadthe ability to demand my wants and needs. [That confidence] is something I try and carry over into the rest of my life.”

Alex stresses that the action of giving his money away is fully consensual. “Everyone spends money on pleasure, on services, on things which are ephemeral. Some people enjoy spending all their money at the pub, some on fast food, some at the strip club. I don’t see there’s any difference in what I’m doing. I spend my money on things I enjoy and, in this case, it’s giving money to a domme.”

This debate is opening up an ethical pandora’s box of itself. Indeed, it boils down to the million-dollar question: is sex work, in general, ethical? I’m inclined to believe that financial domination is more ethical than other forms of sex workneither party is being overtly exploited, everything is consensual and no physical contact is needed.

So there you have it, a brief insight into the financial domination fetish. Ultimately, we should stress, and celebrate, that people have the freedom to fulfil their own fantasieswhatever that may beas long as it doesn’t harm either party involved. The only harm being done here is to Alex’s bank balance.

*Interviewees have been given pseudonyms to protect their identity.

A high-end escort answers all your questions

“I’m a published short-story writer, freelance editor, and I do high-end escort work. Guess which one pays the bills?”. That’s what Hillary Rankin’s bio reads on her Quora profile, where the escort is particularly active in answering specific questions people may have about her side profession. Interested and curious to learn more from Rankin, I decided to get in touch with her in order to answer any questions you may have about what being a high-end escort truly means.

What first led you to become an escort girl, and did you have any misconceptions about the job before starting?

“I had a friend who worked with the group. She suggested it to me. When I first started doing it I only worked occasionally, but enjoyed it and gradually got more and more involved. No real reservations, but there was definitely a learning curve and sort of a personal re-defining of my own comfort levels. Not just about sex, but about a lot of things.”

Unlike other escort girls, Rankin and her group don’t use popular online platforms such as Escort Babylon or Babylon Girls to advertise their profile or find new clients. “We’re pretty much all word of mouth,” she shared. Rankin describes herself as a “high-end escort”, which differs from other types of escort work.

What does being a high-end escort girl mean in comparison to other escort girls?

“More money, fewer clients, and in general we have a very good clientele. Well vetted, well behaved, well off financially.”

How many hours do you work as an escort girl in one week? And how much does a high-end escort girl earn in one week approximately?

“We have some girls who only date two to three times a month, and some girls who work five times a week. So the pay varies a lot. I see an average of three clients a week, but that varies a lot of course. An in-town date can be anywhere from an hour to a whole afternoon or evening. We also do some travel work, which means we can be gone with a client for a week or more at a time. I was offered the chance to buy into the agency, and being an owner, I also put in a certain amount of time doing management and administrative work.”

When asked about the safety of her job, Rankin explained, “We obviously let someone know when we’re seeing a client and where we are. And we make sure the client knows that we’re in contact throughout the date. All our girls learn some basics about how to handle yourself in an unsafe situation. Frankly, being proactive and making sure the client knows what the expectations are ahead of time takes care of problems though. And our clients are generally very well vetted. Most of them are regulars, and value their own reputations within our group, so they know how to behave.”

Are you quite open about your job in your everyday life? Do you tell partners, lovers and your family?

“Some yes, some no. A lot of my best friends are women I work with, so there’s a built-in friend/support group there. Some of my non-escort friends know, some don’t. My sister used to work with us too, but no longer does. My mom didn’t know at first but does now. She was initially appalled, but now thinks it’s kind of cool.”

What has been your best experience as an escort girl?

“The other women I work with.”

What about your worst?

“Nothing really terrible—clients who are boring or arrogant. It comes with the territory. Then they give you money, and you go home.”

What would be your advice for anyone looking to become an escort girl?

“Don’t do it unless you genuinely enjoy sex. Find the right agency and client base (which is not easy to do). Set your standards wherever you think they should be, but once you do, don’t lower them.”

On Quora, Rankin promotes openness about her work through witty yet honest answers to some of the most varied questions you’ll find. When asked about what’s in her nightstand drawer, the escort gladly replies, “Basically magazines and sex toys. The former tend to be The Atlantic (which I subscribe to) and various (literary/ideas/current events) things I pick up when I travel. The latter are just a few small things I use by myself when I don’t feel like getting out of bed and going to the toy chest. If I have a partner over, there’s generally more discussion about what we want to do and how we want to do it, but the nightstand is a good place for something to get off with if I’m alone and horny and don’t want to get out of bed.

Thanks for asking, too, by the way. In looking through my drawer, I also found a remote to the ceiling fan that I had forgotten I had, a bottle of Tylenol, and a wine opener. All of which seem like they could come in handy, so now that I’m aware of their presence, I may get out of bed slightly less often.”

Are you more curious about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on escorts? Rankin has got something to share here too, “In the obvious way that both clients and sex workers are understandably a lot warier about interacting with people. We have some girls who are still working a fair amount, but most (like me) are only seeing a few regular clients, and only those who we know a bit about their personal life to know they’re not in an at-risk profession or lifestyle. And yeah, I know, there’s still an inherent risk here, but there are also bills to pay. You try to make smart choices.

But maybe even more is the lack of business travel. Obviously, depending on the type of escort work you do, a huge part of the business is men who travel for work, who are looking for a little fun when they’re in a hotel away from home. Some of these are regulars, some are not. But just like hotels and bars and restaurants and lots of other hospitality businesses that cater to business travellers, ours has taken a hit.”

As engaging as Rankin is online, she’s also not afraid to put people asking problematic questions back in their place. For example, one user asked her “Why is there such a backlash against ‘slut shaming’? Isn’t sleeping around a bad thing regardless of gender?” to which Rankin cleverly replied: “Why do you think sex is such a bad thing? Sex is like most human interactions: you should be informed, you should make good choices, and you should be aware that there can be potential downsides (physical, mental, and emotional) to your choices. Like anything in life, sex comes with certain responsibilities. Like most human interactions, sex is also a really great thing too! It’s empowering, it forms connections (whether for an evening or a lifetime), and it’s pretty damned fun!

You can choose to have sex a lot, with a lot of different partners, or you can choose to be very selective about who you sleep with. No, ‘sleeping around’ is not a bad thing, and who gets to define it? One woman’s ‘sleeping around’ is another woman’s natural expression. It’s your choice, just like it’s my choice to practice my sexuality how it fits in with my needs and wants, and to be proud of my choices. I won’t have other people’s definitions of ‘morality’ decide what’s appropriate for me.”

From being asked whether she ever peed on someone’s face (she has) to what the difference between being pansexual and bisexual is, Rankin’s Quora profile is one of the rare safe places online where discussions are started without judgement and questions are answered non aggressively. By answering most of the questions she receives, the high-end escort—be that knowingly or not—plays her part in tackling taboos surrounding her side profession.

If like me you have an unlimited amount of questions that need answers, feel free to message Rankin on her Quora page—educate yourself, it’s fun. Because you can be sure that assumptions are, more often than not, far from the truth.