How Do You Get Your Catholic Mom to Accept Your Job ... As a Dominatrix?

7 min
Grace Marie is a mom and a daughter, and has to navigate both of those relationships while working as a dominatrix in Los Angeles. (Courtesty Grace Marie/Instagram)

This post contains sexual imagery.

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I

n a high-rise apartment in the heart of Los Angeles, a naked man is on his knees. A clothed woman towers above him. The man does not have a name. He has given her good money not to have a name. The woman has a name, but the man calls her only “Goddess.”

But we’re jumping ahead.

This is a family story -- even if you might not think it's a family-friendly story -- about a single mom, her mother and her son. It’s a story about navigating conflicting belief systems to build a better life for your family. It’s about finding the right career, even if it doesn’t sit well with everyone around you.

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Before she was a goddess, her name was simply Grace Marie. (We’re not using her last name, or the last names of her family members in this story, to protect their privacy.)

For 10 years, she had a very fulfilling career as a special education preschool teacher. She was 20 when she started that job; her son was 2.

After Grace got pregnant in high school, her mother was adamant that her daughter keep the baby. Together they raised James, who’s 19 now and very close to his mom.

“She’s one of the best moms I know,” says James. “She was always there for me when I needed her. And she encouraged me, in an age where a lot of my friends’ mothers spent most of their time discouraging their kids.”

Grace was a special education teacher until James was 12 years old. All three of them were living together. Then, Grace made a career change.

Grace, posing in the doorway of her bathroom, dressed for a patron who she was meeting later that day. Her mother and son did not want to be photographed for this story.
Grace, posing in the doorway of her bathroom, dressed for a patron who she was meeting later that day. Her mother and son did not want to be photographed for this story. (Bradley Bermont/KQED)

“Let’s keep it very real,” she says. “I had a mountain of medical bills I was concerned with paying. And you know, the school district was great, but they didn’t make me rich.”

At the time, Grace was in an on-again, off-again relationship with a kinky video artist who liked to lick boots.

“That got me curious, because I was like, ‘Oh there are different ways to fuck,’ ” she says. And that curiosity led her to an unfamiliar corner of a very familiar website.

“There were people on Craigslist offering 250 ‘roses’ for foot worship,” she explains. Craigslist recently removed their personals section, but when Grace first changed careers, that’s where she found most of her clients, including a man who lived nearby.

“I drove to his house in my little Prius -- my little mom mobile -- and then I got out and clip-clopped inside with my heels and shoved my foot down his throat,” she says, laughing.

She was given $300 as a “tribute,” she says, making it very clear that this wasn’t a payment of any kind. In that moment, she became a dominatrix and took the title: Goddess Grace Marie.

Now, Grace says, “People come to me for anything you can possibly think of. I’ve done scenes that are very light and innocent, like tickle torture scenes, adult baby scenes -- anything from that, ranging to more hardcore scenes where there’s pain involved. Maybe sometimes there might be blood or feces involved. Some scenes can get to be really hardcore, but you know -- that’s just who you’re talking to because what’s hardcore to one person is BDSM-lite to another.”

(BDSM is an overlapping abbreviation that refers to a group of fetishes: bondage and discipline; dominance and submission; sadism and masochism. It is often used as an umbrella term for any kind of fetish or kink.)

There’s no traditional sex involved, but it’s most certainly sex work. And Grace loved it from the start.

“The first time you get $300 for an hour’s worth of work, when you’ve been working a $20 per hour job here in L.A., it’s kind of a rush, you know?” says Grace. “Suddenly you’re like, ‘Oh my God, finally they’re paying me what I’m worth. I’m obviously a goddess. This is it, I’ve arrived.’ ”

Grace Marie is a mom, and a daughter, and has to navigate both of those relationships after choosing to become a dominatrix in Los Angeles.
Grace Marie is a mom, and a daughter, and has to navigate both of those relationships after choosing to become a dominatrix in Los Angeles. (Courtesy Grace Marie)

Mom's Initial Reaction

But if Grace felt like she had arrived, Pat -- her mother -- felt like she needed deliverance.

“I felt sad, and I felt mad. And I felt embarrassed. And I felt shame,” Pat says. “That’s how I felt. All those things at once.”

And James? He didn’t know. He knew his mom quit her job as a teacher, but he didn’t know what she was doing for a living until two years later.

Grace says he found one of her floggers, a type of short whip with a bunch of tails.

“He asked me why I had it. And I said the same thing I said to him when he asked me if Santa Claus was real when he was 4: ‘Do you want a story, or do you want the truth?’ "

Grace’s whip and collection of floggers. They range from supple deer skin to brutally tough bull hide.
Grace’s whip and collection of floggers. They range from supple deerskin to brutally tough bullhide. (Bradley Bermont/KQED)

James says, the truth was, it didn’t bother him. Grace explained to him that there were certain people who wanted certain sensations and she was a person who could help them.

The discovery and ensuing explanation was a non-event for James. He hardly remembers the moment, but said it didn’t affect their relationship at all. She continued to be a great mom throughout everything, he said.

But Pat felt differently.

After two years of tolerating Grace’s new career, Pat kicked her out of the house.

“It was non-negotiable,” Grace says. “'You have to go,'” she recalls her mother saying. “'If you’re choosing this, you’re out of here.'”

Pat simply didn’t get it. She was raised in the Midwest with a devout Catholic family, including an uncle who was a priest. She didn’t understand what would drive her daughter to do this, though she thought about it a lot.

“I thought about emotional detachment, I thought about revenge against men in general,” she says. “I thought about control -- always being in control, always being on the giving end of the pain instead of the receiving end.”

Why BDSM Work Is Healing for Grace -- and Her Clients

Pat raised Grace as a single mom while working in management for a school district. Her budget was tight, and she put in long hours. Grace spent a lot of time with babysitters. Two of those babysitters molested Grace. The first incident happened when she was only 6 years old. Both molesters were teenage male babysitters. Neither were ever reported to the authorities.

Grace recalls an incident when she was 9: “He told me that he was my boyfriend, but that we couldn’t tell anybody because the world is what it is.”

“The physical things we were doing didn’t bother me. It didn’t go too far,” she says, noting that it was emotional abuse that took a toll on her, she said.

“And then that sort of shaped my worldview on what love is,” Grace said. She said she continued to have abusive relationships into adulthood, which she blames on the abuse she suffered as a child.

“That mindfuck imprint was left on me. So I need to find a container for that,” she said. “It can live in the BDSM world if it’s done well.”

Not every abuse survivor will go on to become a dominatrix. But for Grace, it makes her feel safe around men again. It helps her feel in control. It makes her feel like someone is there to take care of her. Someone who worships her, like a goddess.

“When a patron shows up on the first of the month with a stack of cash to show me that they want me to be safe with a roof over my head, and with food in my fridge, and with everything I need for the month -- that helps,” Grace said. “That helps restore faith in human beings.”

And it’s not just Grace who’s helped by her work. One of her patrons, who asked not to be named and refused to have his voice taped for this story, said Grace helped him build a closer relationship with his sons.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this deep, therapeutic experience, but that’s what it really became,” the client says. He’s been seeing Grace for the past two years, starting when his wife of 30 years left him unexpectedly.

“[Grace] allowed me to find a vulnerability in myself that I avoided at all costs, in every aspect of my life, which made me really closed off and isolated,” he say. This vulnerability helped him become more emotionally available. He said that he thought it could have improved his marriage if he had done this earlier. That’s why he’s comfortable calling her “goddess.”

And what about Pat, Grace’s mom?

“It took me awhile to come to the fact that this wasn’t about me or what I was feeling. This was about Grace,” she says.

“My love for Grace goes above any of the other emotions that I described. I will do whatever it takes to help Grace be the best person she can be,” she says.

Finding a fulfilling career is hard for anyone. But getting your Catholic mom to accept you as a dominatrix? Grace and Pat found a way to make it work.

Just this week, Grace moved back into Pat’s house. Together they built a family for James where he can be supported by not just one mom, but two -- even if it took them awhile to get there.

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