The role of a female-dominant male-submissive relationship has been present in culture since the 18th century. Yet, the term Dominatrix wasn’t forged until the 1960s, when it was used to describe a woman who provides sexual punishment for payment in Bruce Roger's lascivious paperback The Bizarre Lovemakers (1967). The word finally penetrated popular consciousness a decade later, following the release of the 1976 erotic film Dominatrix Without Mercy.
Today, as niche sexual tropes become far more widely accepted, the role of the dominatrix has become more prevalent, populating mainstream movies, video games, adult cartoons, movies, apps and more. That said, we still know relatively little about the women behind their sadomasochistic practice – and this is precisely what London-based, German photographer Max Eicke set out to explore in his stimulating new photobook, Dominas.
Housed within a traffic light red cover, crafted from rubber, Eicke showcases a surprisingly disparate series of large-scale portraits of professional German dominatrixes. Baroness Davina Dust (2013), for example, appears every inch the archetypal buxom goddess in a crimson wet-look leather harness, while Berlin-based Bizarrlady Amy (2014) makes a more classical impression in a long-sleeved knit, laced corset and Baroque-style pearl necklace.
Bursts of text – breathy snippets from the sitters, in addition to 'found footage' from the Internet – intercept the photographs, offering a deeper insight into the motivation and modern attitudes that belong to both the aforementioned women and the genre in general. “Many guests are ashamed because of their desires. I find that sad, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Shame doesn’t exist for me,” laments one extract. While another declares: “For me, perverse is everything that does not take place by mutual consent.” While eroticism underpins the book, what's perhaps most revealing is the conflicting spectrum of emotions that are exposed throughout, which run the gamut from sheer defiance to ecstasy, agony and pathos.
Dominas by Max Eicke, published by Kehrer, is out now.