Commentary Strange Fruit

Chicago dominatrix Mistress Velvet didn’t intentionally build her practice around dominating white men. But she was living in a predominantly white part of North Carolina at the time, and most of the people who could afford to hire her, fit that demographic.

“It just happened to be that a lot of my clients were white men,” she said, “and they were just really awful.”

One client said he appreciated that she was so well educated. “I’ve had black mistresses in the past,” he told her, “but they were often ghetto.” At the same time, she said he seemed to be struggling with a lot of white guilt.

She figured he needed some education himself — and he happened to be paying her to tell him what to do. So she ordered him to read an essay from Patricia Hill Collins’ book on the importance of black feminist theory.

“It just gave me so much life,” she said. “He was on his knees, at my feet, reading an essay to me, and I’m like snapping the whole time — at least internally. You know, I have to keep up my persona of being very cold.”

She decided she wanted to be doing more of that kind of work, and now she specializes in dominating white men and teaching them black feminist theory. Depending on the client, she said the assignments can be used as a treat or a punishment.

Mistress Velvet joins us to talk about her work, mainstream perceptions of BDSM, and how race and racism plays into intimate power dynamics.

We also have a conversation this week with poet, teacher, and self-described “queer black troublemaker” Alexis Pauline Gumbs. Her newest book, “M Archive,” is told from the point of view of a future researcher, looking back on the anti-blackness of late capitalism. The publisher describes it as “a series of poetic artifacts that speculatively documents the persistence of Black life following a worldwide cataclysm.”

Laura produces Curious Louisville, Strange Fruit, and other audio news stories for WFPL.