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Chi Lives: Susanne-D'Arcy, the dominatrix next door

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It was hard to get Maitresse Susanne-D'Arcy to set aside some time to talk. On Thanksgiving morning, she was going to a far-off suburb to pick up her mother; on Friday morning, she was going to a far-off suburb to cut down a Christmas tree. But we managed to have a conversation the night before Thanksgiving while she puttered around the kitchen. She was making gingerbread. "I'm an excellent cook," she said.

D'Arcy said she was sorry we were only able to connect by phone. "It would be great if you could come over and see my dungeon. But you can come anytime."

Maitresse Susanne-D'Arcy is a professional dominant, a dominatrix. She says the dungeon tucked into her north-side apartment has black carpeting and tuxedo gray walls with "bright electric splashes of jolting color" (some are like "shiny red blood"). It has a four-by-four-foot cage with a padlock. And a whipping cross and a winch and pulley and a little stool. And other paraphernalia to which one can be screwed down while being whipped and chained.

D'Arcy began her career as a "sex worker" 18 years ago when she became a prostitute. Now, however, she's at a point in her life when she would prefer "not to be touched sexually." Her customers "can kiss my hands and feet but that's it." She says she's always had requests for domination; she thinks about 75 percent of men are into it.

"Domination is a head game," she says. "I don't whip that hard. It's not about how hard. It's a buildup process. And it's nonsexual." Her clients are free to go into the bathroom afterward alone, however. "It's fine with me," she says.

D'Arcy figures about a third of her clients were victims of childhood sexual abuse and "they've eroticized the experience and want to reenact it. They want me to wear a white panty girdle and beige stockings."

She says she learned to be good at what she does by learning what not to do from emotionally abusive women. She says her field does harbor a great potential for abuse. She claims some other "doms" make their clients sign contracts stating they won't see anyone else. And they do other emotionally manipulative things--like making clients wear a blindfold.

"It's got to be understood it's a game," she says. "I don't want to take control or beat someone senseless or make them bleed. They seek me out. I make eye contact and say things to reinforce and point out my dominance. I tease them. I say, 'How do you feel? How does it feel to struggle? You're not going anywhere.'"

Some of her clients, D'Arcy says, are "executives who control people's lives. They want people to take control of their lives--tie them up, spank them, whip them. They're not going to give up power voluntarily.

"I'm very good at [taking control]. It doesn't hurt and I don't leave marks. I don't leave scratches of any kind. There's just a lot of pressure. Other people may tell [my clients] they're sick and warped and that it's awful and ugly, but it's not. The words 'sadism' and 'masochism' are emotionally charged. I like to use the words 'sex magic' or 'power' and 'trust.' There's a psychic interplay, a clicking between a dominant and a submissive, a 'ritual' aspect which I like a lot."

D'Arcy explains that when her clients really reach their limits, she lets them use "safe" words. Using words like "no" or "enough" is part of the scenario, the process, so they don't work. Her clients use the word "red" when they mean stop. And the word "yellow" when they mean lighten up. "Then I know they really mean it," says D'Arcy. She takes pride in her clients not having to use the words very often. "It's like being a bartender; a bartender should never let their customers get drunk enough to be cut off."

For the ritual to work, D'Arcy's clients have to trust her not to hurt them. "It's wonderful to gain trust. I do that by not asking them to do things they really don't want to do. Like anything anal. Most men are homophobic."

And between two and ten clients per week trust her enough to pay a couple of hundred bucks or more for her services. She also accepts barter--legal services, cleaning services, chauffeur services. (She files with the IRS as a professional fitness consultant.)

She's very selective about who she sees. She advertises in a "trade" magazine, and potential clients write to her. She carefully screens the letters, weeding out bad apples. "If I like them, I'll write and tell them I'll 'train' them. I'm not afraid of sex or death. I'm an intelligent person who knows how to provide a necessary service."

According to D'Arcy, her work provides an emotional release for people who live with a high level of tension, who internalize the stresses of everyday life. She says she creates "an explosion" for them so they can continue handling what's going on in their real lives. "They can have this fantasy woman standing over them, who you can fantasize you can't stop--but you really can. You get an adrenaline high and afterwards you feel cleansed and relieved."

D'Arcy will give a lecture demonstration entitled "SM 101" on Tuesday, December 8, at 7 PM at the Gargoyle Bar and Grill, 3222 N. Clark. The $5 admission fee will go to Genesis House, which offers hospitality and support for women in prostitution. For more info call 871-3900.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Charles Eshelman.

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