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Ladies, Get Out Your Whip

Vivia Chen

March 18, 2018


What do you wear when you're meeting a dominatrix at her apartment?

That was my dilemma. The obvious choice would have been a black leather skirt and thigh-high boots. But I didn't want to do the hackneyed thing, so I opted for a simple pair of brown pants and brown t-shirt.

You probably don't give a hoot about what I wore. You're saying, why was the Careerist visiting a dominatrix? Is she proposing another wacky alternative career?

Rest assured, dear reader, this is not about me. I was on the prowl for your sake, checking out the best and most novel tools for your career.

The latest must-have in a woman's career arsenal is Kasia Urbaniak, a New York-based professional dominatrix with 17 years of experience under her belt (or whatever). The proprietress of The Academy, Kasia has an almost cult-like following among working women. (Ruben Flores, a veteran of Doctors Without Borders, is her co-partner.)

At a recent lecture/workshop called "Cornering Harvey" in Midtown Manhattan attended by about 200 women and a dozen or so male volunteers, Kasia marched onto the stage in a long black dress with a riding crop in hand and cracked the whip.

Mostly, it was a metaphorical whip. Kasia focused on two facets of women's interaction with men. One is what she calls the "freeze" when a woman wants to speak up but doesn't. The other is how women handle uncomfortable, ambiguous situations, like indirect sexual propositions.

In each case, it was about flipping the power dynamics. In the mouth-freeze situation, audience members were paired up and told to state direct facts about the other person, as a way to practice shifting focus from themselves to the other person. Women have a tendency to become self-conscious and fault themselves, says Kasia. "When women get mad, we don't direct it outward," she told the audience. "We're like suicide bombers. We explode ourselves."

In the proposition scenario, women practiced putting men on the defensive. Assigned the role of "mistress" (that's how male customers address the dominatrix), volunteers from the audience were put in situations where male customers, in violation of rules, demanded sex. (News flash: Sex between the dominatrix and submissive is a major no-no.) Again, the objective is for women to flip the power dynamics by putting men in their place with questions like, "What rock did you crawl out of to make such a request?"

At her apartment (which, by the way, wasn't all that scary, though it was dimly lit by a series of votive candles), Kasia talked about how being a dominatrix has informed her current work and its relevance to women in high-powered professions.

Though she says she went into the dominatrix field as a way to pay for college and Taoist studies (she also trained as a Taoist nun in China) and was initially scared about the work ("they threw me into the dungeon, and it was terrifying"), she ultimately got more out of it than she expected. "It was incredibly empowering to be in someone else's costume and speaking her words," she explains. "I saw people more clearly. I could see a man's body speak moment to moment," adding, "submission for a man is taboo."

Kasia's mission is to teach women the lessons of the dungeons. "I train women to train the men in their lives," she explains, adding that women still have problems advocating for themselves. "They have significant jobs but they can't get their significant other to make coffee or get the sex they want," she says. "And even if they're ascending in their jobs, they're stuck." Too often, she adds, "they're not getting credit?" She sums up: "They suck at asking."

Not getting credit, fear of asking, freezing at critical moments: all this has a familiar ring for female lawyers. But do you need someone like Kasia to help lift your career and life out of the dumps?

Well, I guess if you've already tried the usual suspects—the career coach, the business development tutor and the dress-for-sucesss consultant—and they're not working, why not give the dominatrix a shot?




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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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