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A Dominatrix diary by Stephanie Telomere

By: Amanda Sandström Beijer

Photos by: Stephanie Telomere

Stephanie Telomere
Stephanie Telomere

Photographer and Dominatrix Stephanie Telomere let’s us in on her personal experience of being a dominatrix through her self-portrait series where we explore power as much as vulnerability.


'Degrade me' is an ongoing non-linear photographic diary exploring Stephanie's personal image and experience as a Dominatrix. The series is made up of self-portraits and point-of-view (POV) shots using Medium Format (MF) film and Polaroid.


Tell us about the drive behind the diary!

Depictions of sex workers in art history have almost always been as deviants and immorals, lacking a creative voice of their own. Porn and sexually explicit images are differentiated from ‘pure’ art forms, constraining the style and directness of an image to the ‘erotic’. My intention is to unsettle and confuse this kind of viewership, which is more often than not confined to the male gaze.


This project focuses on my career as a professional Dominatrix since 2019. But the form and my visual expression culminates from 15 years of self-portrait photography, as well as my work in installation art, theatre and performance. I frame myself in positions of power and vulnerability; I am simultaneously the photographer, the objectified sexual figure and the dominatrix. I also look directly into the camera, bringing together moments of raw intimacy with a constructed scene. I use a range of formats to emphasize differing perspectives. Polaroid is used to capture a moment from the POV perspective in paid Domination sessions; I use the sound of the shutter and the harsh flash to further my clients’ chosen experience of submission and humiliation. As for the self-portraits, I use a Medium Format analogue camera, holding the shutter release and displaying a release of control.


Besides being a Dominatrix and photographer, you’re also an installation artist and have studied politics and philosophy – wanna tell us when and why you chose sex work?

By studying politics and philosophy I was already reflecting on how our society is structured. I wanted to creatively explore these reflections and so after graduating I studied photography. My first inspirations as for many were the intimacy, rawness and beauty, tenderness of Nan Goldin, then the starkness and strangeness of Diane Arbus. I was drawn to self-portraiture as an exploration of the construction of the self, perhaps being at odds with our internal experience. I was fascinated with Claud Cahun and how they defied social norms through images of themselves. Still now I’m inspired by self-portrait artists such as Zanele Muholi who is using herself as a conduit to re-evaluate socially constructed ideas.


By starting self-portraiture (before the Iphone and using analogue photography) I looked at my presence in the world and what it represented through the image. I deconstructed and played with concepts around sexuality; exposure, confrontation, and tried to use self-portraiture as a way to disrupt the obvious. Fast forward 15years and my Dominatrix career is symbiotic as well as an informing my artwork. During these years I have also practiced performance art- bringing the body into contact with the audience directly. I was already using my body to play, experiment, connect. Now I like working with clients who have kinks; on a simple level they are expressing desires that are a diversion from the expected norm, I think this expression and play can be healthy and creative.

I use my body, my genuine interest in people and my performance background in combination with enjoying BDSM in general. It is more complicated and sex work isn’t something you should take lightly, but I did come to it with a positive intrigued attitude, and I see it as a career.



What does sex workers rights mean to you, and what’s your experiences from the political side, as well as from the sex workers side?

I correlate sex workers rights with inequality in general. Those who are most vulnerable in society are still the most vulnerable if they engage in sex work. I have the privilege of being a legal resident, of working in a studio, charging a lot of money so I can choose my clients carefully and of being generally healthy; I pay my health insurance and I use what is available to me in order to keep myself vigilant and stable. If you lack privilege, as with all situations in our society; any risks are exacerbated. Patriarchy and racism is the status quo and society also places sex workers as outsiders. We simply need the same security and safety that is granted to other professions.


So, for me, class inequality, patriarchy, globalization and rights of immigrants to gain legal residency, racism, transphobia are all struggles of sex workers because sex workers, as with their clients are in every demarcation of society.


What does a day in your work-life look like?

My days are made of a combination of working on my Dominatrix business, taking photographs, working on concepts for projects. When I have sessions booked, I go to the studio I work at which is all set up with great playrooms, lighting and a lot of toys, beds, chairs with stirrups and bathrooms with nice showers. I set up the space put lighting and music on. Check the session-plan which is things the client has requested, I collect toys I need from other rooms and maybe clothes they might want to wear. I get changed into my Latex or lingerie, finish my makeup and then the client will come in.

We have a conversation about their experience, we go over what they want. I ask them if they are a real slave or more of a fetishist. This determines how I will treat them within the session, either with commands and humiliation or more on an equal level. They go and shower and undress and knock on the door of the bathroom when they are ready for me to go and pick them up. I then bring them to the room and tell them what they need to do.

Throughout the session I will check their thresholds. Usually the safe word is simply ‘no’ or ‘no more’. For me it doesn’t bring us out of the game for them to say they can’t take any more pain or that they need a smaller dildo for example. We sometimes take pauses, and we drink water or Sekt.


Once the session time has ended, they go back to the bathroom with their clothes, we have a small chat and reflect a bit on the session I usually ask them how they feel. Finally, they leave, and I clean up the toys and the space and get out of my latex and remove the makeup. I go home and chill or take my camera out. It’s a great job but I’m always looking for new ways to unwind. You’re very focused on the other person in the session and it’s important to nourish yourself to not get burnt out especially with multiple sessions in a day. I also workout, I train with pole dancing for fun and try and build my muscles with kettlebells.

My goal now is to engage in more activism which will combine my photography with academia and my experiences as a sex worker. I am currently working on a self-portrait workshop that I hope to produce in various conferences, universities and later independently.



You’ve been living in Berlin since 2010 - what’s your view on the city's transformation over the years?

Even in 2010 people were talking about gentrification; that it was coming, but in the last couple of years it has sped up and social policies are in flux. For me personally it hasn’t changed so much, but I have, as I don’t party so much anymore. People are still sun-bathing on a Wednesday afternoon when everyone in London would be at work, but probably for different reasons. We will see how the city copes with the new economic and energy problems. I hope that Berlin is able to look after our most vulnerable.

As a sex worker, how would you rate Berlin as a city?

I’m not sure I can as I haven’t worked in many other cities. What I do like about working in Berlin is that it has a heritage of BDSM, people know about it culturally and I get the feeling its more accepted through this perception. Tourists will often come for a session, and I really like to represent Berlin’s alternative roots in this way.

As an artist you’ve been facing many barriers when it comes to censorship – what’s your view on this and how do you believe it affects sex workers rights?

Censorship in art is very interesting to me, in fact I would describe censorship as part of my work. Censoring something is really establishing what is culturally acceptable, reflecting the values of our time. With my recent experiences, particularly in the high-end contemporary photography world, I would say we have regressed with our conceptions of sex. Perhaps it is a reaction to an implicit knowledge that there is now at least one generation of people who got most of their sex education through porn.

Instead of facing this by using art to explore complexities and questions; fear tells people to ignore and repress. It’s crazy to observe how prevalent the male gaze in art, fashion and advertising is and yet using the gaze to confront and question is feared and suppressed. This ultimately affects general perceptions about sex workers and more fear and conservatism can lead to more regressive social policy. When something is illegal or does not have the same protections securing it as mainstream industry, then it is forced to move underground which becomes more and more dangerous. We can see this happening now with the regressive abortion laws in the USA.

Why do you believe your clients are drawn to submission and humiliation?

There are so many different reasons, some are specific to the person. The cliché is that people with power want to relinquish it as relaxation, I think there is some truth in this. In general, I believe that some kind of fetish is within almost everyone, but not everyone is in a safe, or privileged position to explore them so, they remain niche.


If you’d describe your ’typical’ client, who are they, and what does a session with you bring them?

There are no typical clients, there are even people who are not rich and save up for a session. They come from every profession and every walk of life.



And what does it bring you besides money? It's creative and interesting, I take pride in becoming skilled in different areas, so my clients come back for more. I also love to explore sexuality in my artwork and it’s great to meet clients who feel free in their kinks.

Could you describe a session for us?

There are so many things you could do. It first depends on their fantasy, we are still offering a service even if I’m in control in the session so they will list some things they either want to try or that they know are their specific kinks, it can be from foot erotic to anal play to sissy games, to more sadistic BDSM and pain sessions.

If they are fully a slave, and not a fetishist, then they will always start at my feet, perhaps they won’t be able to look at me and I play with them as my toy in different ways leading in and out of their specific kinks. Occasionally someone will ask for ‘anything’ which is a bit annoying because you know they don’t really want anything. But in this case, I will do ‘tests’ to determine their capacities and tastes of different things, it’s useful because you can start very light with something, and they have the ability to decide how far they can go.

What’s your best tip to sex workers who want to promote their work, and yet stay safe?

Twitter is useful and the least frustrating, but let’s see for how long… To stay safe simply be as anonymous as you feel comfortable with and have separate phone numbers.

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