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Shawna Kenney

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Shawna Kenney
Powell's City of Books
Monday, July 22 7:30 pm

"I have two theories on why a man goes to see a dominatrix," says now-retired dominatrix Shawna Kenney. "First--and I think this is true for 90 percent of this men who go--most of them are in really powerful positions, and it's a relief for them." When Shawna was working as a dom, she lived in Washington, D.C., and though she won't give the names of the people she dominated, she assures us we would recognize some of them.

For Kenney, and all the other doms she worked with, sexual contact was never a part of what she was asked to do--domination simply consisted of her beating men up and pushing them around. (Kenney's specialty was the golden shower).

"They want to give the power up for an hour," Shawna explains. "There weren't a lot of working class guys interested in this. Think about it. Working class guys have no power, just like a lot of women; it's easy for a woman to go be treated like shit, so they wouldn't need to pay someone to do it."

"The second theory," Shawna continues, "only applies to a very small percentage of people, and I think it's the most popular misconception about these men--but I do think some of them were abused. Some of my clients wanted me to re-enact things with them from their childhood. Like I had this one guy who wanted me throw him down on the floor and force him to take his medicine, like his aunt had when he was a child, because he was always sick. I said no."

Kenney is the author of I Was a Teenage Dominatrix, and will be reading here next week as part of a panel called "Sex Worker Literati." Joining her will be David Sterry, author of Chicken, the journal of a young male prostitute who serviced only rich women. Like her theory on why a man would go to see a dominatrix, Kenney's book illuminates the psychology behind the dominatrix industry. We follow Kenney as she leaves home at a young age, works odd jobs for awhile, and then--broke and fed up with being treated like crap--put herself through college by working as a dominatrix.

But the reason her book is so riveting is that Keeney combines this education about the sex industry with endlessly entertaining stories about dominating. "I was working for a fetish magazine before the book was written, and I would always tell these stories around the office," Kenney laughs. "Everyone thought the stories were funny and wanted me to write them down, but I was thinking, 'Who's going to read this?' Now, the first printing of Kenney's book has sold out, and she's switched to a bigger publisher and sold the rights for a movie.

Kenney's entertainment/education is compounded by a unique objectivity about the sex industry; though the book is about sex, it's not--like so much "sex writing"--a form of erotica. Reading Kenney's book, one realizes how hilarious and ridiculous being a dominatrix really is. "I have an aggressive personality that made it easy for me to do this, but I don't generally get a sexual charge out of it," she explained.

And while this perspective has made Kenney's book popular, it is this same quality that has gathered criticism from other doms. "There are some doms who are considered 'lifestyle' doms," Kenney explained, "and they're sort of mad at me about the book for coming in and out of the industry; using it as a job and then leaving."

Though Kenney doesn't begrudge these lifestyle doms, she also never felt the same way about being a dominatrix. Lifestyle doms, Kenney explains, are the compliment to the men who get off on being treated like crap--women who get off on treating men like crap. "I knew other doms who would really get off on doming," Kenney explains. "I mean, these girls would have orgasms during their sessions. They live like this too--they live with their slaves. I think women who have office jobs or work as waitresses don't feel like they have a lot of power. Sometimes--for this reason--positions of power are really attractive to women." KATIA DUNN

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