A dominatrix (plural dominatrices or dominatrixes) or mistress is a woman who takes the dominant role in bondage and discipline, dominance and submission or BDSM. A common form of address for a submissive to a dominatrix is "mistress", "ma'am", "domina" or "maîtresse". Note that a dominatrix does not necessarily dominate a male partner; a dominatrix may well have female submissives.
The term "domme" (pronounced /ˈdɒm/) is a coined pseudo-French female variation of the slang dom (short for dominant). It stems from the Latin words "dominus" = master, "domina" = mistress. The pronunciation is identical to the term "dom", by analogy to one-syllable French-derived words like femme or blonde.
As fetish culture is increasingly becoming more prevalent in Western media, depictions of dominatrices in film and television have become more common.
Dominatrix is the feminine form of the Latin dominator, a ruler or lord, and was originally used in a non-sexual sense. Its use in English dates back to at least 1561. Its earliest recorded use in the prevalent modern sense, as a female dominant in S&M, dates to 1967.
Although the term "dominatrix" is not used, the classic example in literature of the female dominant-male submissive relationship is portrayed in the 1870 novella Venus in Furs by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. The term masochism was later derived from the author's name.
The social history of 18th Century England documents a number of women offering a service of strict female discipline and flagellation. Amongst these "female flagellants" was the well-known Theresa Berkley, who operated her establishment in Charlotte St in London's suburb of Marylebone. She is often cited as one of the earliest dominatrices, although she herself used the title of "Governess". She is recorded to have used implements such as whips, canes and birches, to chastise and punish her male clients, as well as the Berkley Horse, a specially designed flogging machine, and a pulley suspension system for lifting them off the floor. Such historical use of corporal punishment and suspension, in a setting of domination roleplay, connects very closely to the practices of modern-day professional dominatrices.
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