I Was A Teenage Dominatrix An Interview with Shawna Kenney By Mike White. While the title of this slender tome recalls exploitation films of the past, Shawna Kenney’s memoir is anything but sensationalistic...
While the title of this slender tome recalls exploitation films of the past, Shawna Kenney’s memoir is anything but sensationalistic. Written in direct, candid prose, Kenney takes the reader quickly through her early years from swimming at the YMCA to her discovery of punk rock, to graduating high school and moving out of her parents’ house. By age 18 (and page 22), Kenney applies for her first position in “the sex industry” and from there the book becomes an intense page-turner.
Working her way through college first as an “exotic dancer,” Kenney’s vocation puts her in some precarious situations. Later, as a professional dominatrix however, Kenney relishes her newfound position of power. Just as the reader might be incredulous that not only are there men willing to pay to be verbally abused and beaten, Kenney is amazed to find that the demand is such that countless women around the country make a living at doing that...and worse!
As Kenney discovers the various aspects of what it means to be a professional dominatrix, she relays these often astounding tidbits to the reader in her conversational, matter-of-fact narrative voice. For example, it’s without a hem or haw that Kenney discusses how her ability to urinate at will made her a hit among the members of her clientele with a penchant for “golden showers.” Kenney is to be commended for treating what is normally highly taboo subject manner so frankly.
At first I found the quotes from old punk rock songs to be a bit contrived but, after a while, I realized just how important they were to the story and to reflecting Kenney’s personality. By making us privy to her youth and how important punk rock was to Kenney as a teen struggling with her self-image, the use of lyrics acts to ground the woman doing what might be considered “outrageous,” showing that she’s not taking herself too seriously. Rather, Kenney remains true to herself while acting the role of the Dominatrix. While she’s always striving to be a better Domina, she admits to her limits without making excuses for them.
Between her sincere tone and the inherently interesting subject manner, Kenney has managed to craft a highly compelling read. Once I picked up Kenney’s book, I honestly couldn’t put it down until I was done.
Thanks to the fine folks at WHAP!, I was able to ask Shawna a few questions. For ordering information visit their website at www.retro-systems.com.
Cashiers du Cinemart:How’s the reaction been so far to your book?
Shawna Kenney: It’s been extremely positive. People at readings have been very inquisitive and supportive. I’ve also received so many interesting fan letters. Most recently one from a 70-year-old man who read it and loved it! I was shocked and pleasantly surprised.
CdC: What’s happened between the end of I Was a Teenage Dominatrix and now?
SK: I fell in love with a guy I met in DC (at a Slayer show, by the way) and we moved out to Cali together. We lived in San Diego for a year and have been in Los Angeles for just over three years now! I worked in the film industry for about a year while still freelance writing on the side, all the while feeling like I was gonna explode (hated working in the industry). In my writing endeavors I met up with the Whapsters (at a zine fest), they hired me to be an editor at the mag, and then later offered to publish my book. They’ve since moved across the country and Whap! is mostly just online, so I freelance fulltime now.
CdC: Have you and your parents ever settled your differences? Did they get a copy of your book?
SK: No, we have not settled our differences. Relations had been better but tenuous since college. After I told them about the book, my mother ordered it through Amazon.com, was very upset after reading only a few pages, and has not spoken to me since. I’m fine with that.
CdC: Do you feel that BDSM is something best left to professionals or that it’s got a healthy place in the bedrooms of Mr. & Mrs. America?
SK: I think it has a healthy place with any two (or more) consenting adults.
CdC: How does BDSM play a part in your lifeif at all?
SK: I am much more informed than ever about it after everything I’ve experienced. My boyfriend and I have a great sex life and are both very open-minded people, but no I don’t spank him. (He’s a wimp when it comes to pain, and I have no desire to hurt him). I am extremely “fetish aware” now, too, if that makes any sense. I notice particular things about friends and acquaintances and draw conclusions from my experience-that’s about it.
CdC: From where do you think people’s need for submission stems?
SK: For some I think it’s maybe from the need to feel protected or “babied.” For others it’s a release/relief from “real life.” Most of my clients were in extreme power positions at work and I believe that submitting for an hour was a huge relief to them-no need for them to make any decisions or take control. (Being a decision-maker or responsible is very draining!)
CdC: How do you think your punk rock proto-riot grrl sensibilities helped you as a Domina?
SK: Though it is male-dominated, punk rock “allows” girls and women to be aggressive and outspoken, so I was definitely already comfortable with myself in that way. Also in punk rock you already feel outside the mainstream, so I was doing things that other people thought were weird before I was ever a Dom (dying my hair, shaving my head, being vegetarian, doing stage-dives at shows, going to protests in front of the White House, etc.) Being a Dom was not an “acceptable” or talked-about profession for most of society, either.
CdC: Why do you think folks treat BDSM as if it were inherently “wrong” or morally corrupt?
SK: American society is uptight and puritanical about so many things. BDSM is sexual so it’s not going to be accepted by the mainstream in a society that won’t even show condom commercials on TV or allow women to breastfeed in public!
CdC: What question have you wanted to be asked but haven’t, yet?
SK: How about “what else do you write?” or “what do you do for fun?” because I do lots of other things besides spank men or talk about spanking men. Most of my other writing is freelance journalist-type of stuff focusing on pop culture and underground music. I write almost everyday. I have children’s books I want to publish along with tons of other ideas. And living in L.A. is fun for me right now, too. Lots of freaky people! And the open vibe in California is extremely different from the more uptight East Coast one I grew up with. I’m loving it!
Purchase the book from Amazon.com
Back to Issue 11