Creative Economy

Inside the oldest BDSM training facility on the planet

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Inside the oldest BDSM training facility on the planet

Photos by Richard Lovrich 

“People did have the courage to take bites off me while I was roasting on the spit,” says Mistress Couple, a wry smile crossing her lips. “I was the first of the people on the spit to let people bite them so there was 20 years of hunger built up—curiosity about what it is like to bite someone who is roasting. I still remember everyone in order of who bit hardest and who bit softest,” she says revealing both a rare moment of vulnerability and the fierce reputation she has as a dominatrix.

Welcome to La Domaine Esemar–a chateau situated in the Berkshires that bills itself as the world’s oldest BDSM training facility. Couple is the head dominant here and has been making waves locally and nationally as she looks to modernize and personalize the chateau’s services. She’s been featured in Cosmopolitan, Daily Beast, the Netflix show Unplanned America, and her recent play with Trump and Hillary BDSM play got the attention of Vice. La Domaine offers a “bed and dungeon” rental for couples (a room with BDSM infrastructure and an erotic library), trains interested parties in dominant and submissive roles, and provides erotic (non-intercourse) services for paying customers. (The business is legal and law-abiding.)

Yes, Couple decided for a recent birthday that it would be fun to be strapped onto a spit and roasted over coals until she reached 103 degrees. No, she was not the first person at La Domaine to think of the same thing. There is a fetish known as “Schwanendreher” that involves wanting to be roasted on a spit like a swan, pig or goose, and it has attracted a handful of people to La Domaine. There is no cannibalism and technically, if performed correctly, no one should get hurt.

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La Domaine hosted a British man (who the regulars at La Domaine nicknamed London Broil) who had been a part of a botched roast held in Europe. Mistress and La Domaine founder Master R researched how to safely roast a human.

“You get these people who have these fetishes and try them and they do it with people who aren’t experienced, who don’t know what they’re doing and people end up getting hurt. They start to think that there is something really wrong with them. But then they hear about us and realize maybe this isn’t a part of me I need to be ashamed of. Maybe it’s something I can celebrate.”

Master R says he called the Screen Actors Guild, engineers, welders, “anyone I thought might be able to do this the right way,” before finally assembling the spit.

London Broil spent the weekend agonizing over what he was about to do–the shame of the kink he had long harbored and the scarring he suffered during the botched attempt. With only a few hours left before he was scheduled to catch his flight home he decided to go through with it. Couple describes the process as “transformative,” “cathartic.” She says she saw his confidence return along with his desire for intimacy. “When he came off that spit it was as if he was floating,” says Couple.

La Domaine is situated off a series of gravel backroads, just feet from a stream, tucked deep under tree cover. The front yard gives off the air of a quaint American country home–there is no imposing European gothic vibe–no “Eyes Wide Shut” thing going on. This could be your neighbor’s house–if your neighbor kept a spit for roasting humans in the backyard and a fuck machine in the basement.

Inspired by London Broil’s turn at the spit and the adventure of a Texan who brought loads of BBQ sauce to be basted in, Couple decided it was worth a try.

Hummingbirds, pigeons and blue birds flit around only inches from her head. Her eyes widen as she recalls the ordeal. “It was completely a primal experience. You go right into your animal brain. I thought I was incredibly lucid the entire time. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I’m fine, I’m surprised how sober I feel right now,’” she says describing the feeling of the fire getting closer, her body spinning slowly, the clank of the metal contraption, the sweet smell of the baste that covered her body and the sensation of their teeth biting her fevered skin. “Then I watched the videos and it’s clear I was way gone. I was in another headspace.”

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She’s perched in front of a wide bay window, an assortment of bird feeders hang from a wire, a large, fluffy, white bunny skitters about outside. “I’m like a dominatrix Snow White,” she laughs stretching her fingers in their black gloves–her every move accompanied by the creaking and moaning of her black leather dress. There’s a knock on the door. “Hello Mistress” says a man with grey hair who looks to be in his sixties. “Hello Slave,” she replies. “You may go get changed and bring the leafblower down to the basement.” R laughs: “I don’t even want to ask.”

Couple frowns, “It’s for the balloons.” Balloons also happen to be a fetish–small balloons, big ballons, animal-shaped balloons and the kind of balloon that fits an entire human. Couple will get into such a balloon later that evening.

The smell of toast and goose fat lingers heavy in the air–Master R is planning for an elaborate dinner. R began La Domaine in the Columbia County town of Chatham in 1993 with his then partner. He’s been practicing a BDSM lifestyle since the ‘60s. In 2014, after his relocation and the departure of another mistress, R began looking for a new head dominant with the intention to retire. He gave Couple a call, and she decided since she had free time before a graduate program began, she’d help him find a replacement.

In the basement, Couple shows off La Domaine’s many erotic toys and props. There are bins of dildos, lines of elaborate nipple clamps, candles, balloons, wooden swords, knives, whips, costumes, masks, a closet of medical supplies, toy lightsabers. Couple takes extra care to showcase the more elaborate props–a large crucifix, a stool with a motorized dildo, a crib, and a contraption that allows users to sit propped up and be penetrated by a large metal pole.

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Slave Nine appears by Couple’s side. “You may bring me your collar,” says Couple. Nine returns and Mistress straps the choker around his neck. He’s clad now in a small pair of lace red panties. Just then Mistress notices that a mask is missing from its storage area. She’s alarmed. She wants to know who was using it, who would have failed to put it back. “You may go find the mask,” Couple tells Nine. “Thank you, Mistress,” he says as he scurries off.

Couple had her first experience with BDSM play in this very basement. She was studying dance at Skidmore when she got the idea that perhaps she’d like her boyfriend to spank her. “I was repressed sexually, I wasn’t into porn. So when I got here, it’s like a entering a whole new universe.” After planning a night around the planned spanking her boyfriend backed out. “He said he couldn’t hit a woman,” explains Couple. Later that week her friends asked how things had gone. Couple complained that it hadn’t happened—she felt ashamed, dirty. One of her friends took her aside and told her that she’d been visiting La Domaine and invited her to check it out. Couple says that during her first visit to one of La Domaine’s parties she got up the courage and took off her clothes and put on a collar.

“I got here and there were two incredibly powerful people naked, with a collar sitting on the floor,” says Couple.

One of those men was in the military, the other was someone else she’d known nearly her whole life and was an authority figure. She witnessed a woman impaled on one of the contraptions in the dungeon as she attempted to catch a whip with her genitals. Afterwards the group embraced the woman and applauded her. “It was such a tender moment. I realize this was a safe place I could explore my desires,” says Mistress. The next day she decided to join La Domaine as a house submissive.

Couple continued her studies, regularly attending La Domaine as a submissive. She went on to manage a ballroom dance studio where she says she started to feel conflicted. “I gave them everything. I worked non stop for them and I found myself saying, ‘I’m only supposed to submit for my Master.’”

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She decided to pursue a master’s degree in dance therapy and as she began that trip, R called saying he planned to retire and needed someone to run La Domaine, or else he would be forced to close its doors.

Couple is back in front of the window–the sun has dimmed and Nine is on his knees massaging her feet. She describes how she promised to help R find a replacement, how they conducted interview after interview until finally what she calls her “family” at La Domaine were calling her “Mistress.” She took the job.

Part of the training to be a dominant at La Domaine includes spending time as a submissive. “You need to know what it’s like. You need to have the experience to be able treat people correctly when they are most vulnerable,” says Couple. That empathy and understanding is what Master R says he saw in Couple, and made him realize she should take over his legacy.

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Couple, R and Creature—who is currently in a relationship with Couple—sit around La Domaine’s round dining table. It feels like sitting down to dinner at any middle-class abode, except Nine is there serving lox. Two other submissives bring out the toast and bowls of goose confit. The submissives are required to sit on the floor during the meal and they wait until Couple tells them to eat. Creature is comfort personified, lounging, and laughing as Couple and R tell their stories. Some of the current submissives discovered La Domaine through talks the group does at local college; it’s becoming more common that they are connected through the FetLife app that functions as a social network for the BDSM and fetish communities.

Master R pours champagne for the table and the glasses clink, submissive to master, master to submissive. Nine is still on his knees smiling. Couple looks down at him and tells him he can eat. He stares back blissful and elated–like a child noticed by his distracted mother. “Thank you, Mistress,” he replies, aglow with satisfaction.

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