A few weekends ago, at a birthday brunch, my sister and I were chatting up a new friend about our favorite podcasts. (We are thrilling party guests.) As I’ve already declared, my listening range is limited: I like the sexy, feministy stuff. I said so to this new friend and told him what I listen to, and he pointed out a glaring hole.
“You don’t listen to 'Love + Radio'?” he said.
“I thought you did,” my sister interjected. “Oh, you really should.”
I knew this already. The last time I had listened to the podcast, which “features in-depth, otherworldly produced interviews with an eclectic range of subjects, from the seedy to the sublime,” the episode was about balloon fetishes. Fascinating, sure. But to someone who writes about sex and feminism for a living -- and who, like most people, enjoys a reprieve from work during my daily commute -- listening to "Love + Radio" felt too much like my actual job.
Of course, that’s exactly why it’s such a good thing I took the advice of my sister and new friend, and downloaded the most recent "Love + Radio" episode, “Thank You, Princess.” Because it’s there that I discovered Ceara Lynch, the fascinating subject of this interview.
Lynch is a self-described “humiliatrix,” who makes her living primarily by selling videos that cater to a wide array of sexual fetishes -- specifically, those of men who wish not only to be dominated by a woman, but also belittled, denigrated and, ultimately, destroyed. As Lynch puts it on her website (NSFW), her videos are “specifically designed to exacerbate your inexplicable urge to have a pretty girl ruin your life.”
Speaking by phone earlier this week, Lynch told Salon the strange, urine-soaked story of how she got her start in the sex industry, how she compartmentalizes the many fetishes and fantasies she confronts, and why she doesn’t get off on denigrating men for their sexual pleasure -- even though she considers her job to be “a fucking dream.” Our conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
I want to start with how you got into femdom humiliation. What exactly is it that you do?
I got started when I was 17 years old. I was online, creating little profiles on various vanilla social networking sites, nothing too kinky. Well, nothing kinky at all, actually. Then I had a guy start chatting with me. He was a big pervert, and he had all these weird fetishes. I was kind of grossed out by him, but I was also very much intrigued by him. For reasons I really didn’t understand at the time, the meaner I was to him, the more he wanted to talk to me. He really wanted me to pee on him -- that was his thing, he really liked getting peed on. So one day he asked me if he could buy a bottle of my urine and I was like, “Yeah, of course.” I didn’t think it was serious. He told me that he would only pay for it if I sent it to him first. So I’m thinking, all right, this guy is full of shit, but what do I really have to lose here? I pee for free all the time. There’s a tiny chance that he pays me, let’s see what happens.
It’s a good story either way.
Good story, or secret I never tell anyone. So I sent him a bottle of my piss, and a couple weeks later I get an envelope back containing $250. I was shocked and amazed and I immediately started thinking about this. This guy just found me by accident, but what would happen if I went looking for guys like this? So from there, I started doing a little research. I had heard of women selling their used panties before, and from there I found this website called Ebanned. It’s basically an auction site just like eBay, but they specialize in used panties or socks, pretty much anything a woman could harvest off her body -- even crazy stuff like toenail clippings or pubic hair or tampons. I was looking at other girls’ auctions, and they were all going for pretty low, like $20. So I was thinking, maybe $70 -- if someone buys my panties for 70 bucks, that would be cool. The next day they did.
How did you come up with ideas for what you were going to sell? Was this mostly inspired by other things you were seeing on the site or did you just get really creative?
That’s exactly it. It was a website full of women selling stuff, and so I took ideas from what everyone else was doing. A lot of girls will sell brownies or baked goods, and basically they’ll make a batch of brownies and then they’ll put a bunch of gross stuff in it. They’ll put their piss in it, they’ll spit in it, they’ll put toenail clippings. I just had fun with it. It was a creative outlet and it was just fun to see what crazy thing I could sell from it. I enjoyed telling my friends about it and all the crazy shit I came up with.
I feel like a lot of this exchange is really infused by the Internet. What outlet would people who want to buy these things have, or people who want to sell these things have, without this online marketplace to sell them?
It wouldn’t exist. It just wouldn’t exist, simple as that. Before, I don’t know how guys had this itch scratched. I don’t know if it even necessarily existed before the Internet. I think it’s quite possible that a lot of these fringe fetishes really exploded because of the Internet and because people had more access to this type of content.
So speaking of the Internet, what does your business entail now? I know you’ve been doing this full-time, so where are you on the Internet, and what sorts of services do you provide?
I make most of my money from videos. They are POV-style videos, which means it’s just me and the camera, and I am looking at the camera and talking to the camera so that the viewer feels like I’m talking to them. I just tap into various fetishes and they’re all just under the umbrella of femdom. I always play a dominant role, and I tap into things like cuckolding, small penis humiliation, foot fetish, toilet slavery, giantess -- which is this fetish where guys imagine this giant woman that’s going to come and crush them with her feet or swallow them whole -- different stuff like that. Most of my videos are custom requests or paid customs, where guys will actually send me their fantasy and pay me to make a video of it. Then I do cam shows, which are live and usually one on one with a guy. I do phone calls, where I get paid per minute -- same thing except the guy just hears me, doesn’t see me. Then I still sell things, like my underwear.
How did you become so knowledgeable about all of these kinks and fetishes?
Talking to these guys. I’ve talked to thousands of guys at this point, and they all tell me their fantasies. Guys love telling women who are of no consequence in their life what really gets them hard and what they jerk off to. I would never come up with this on my own.
Maybe I’m projecting, but I feel like hearing all these intimate details about other people’s lives could be difficult. Is that challenging for you at all, to learn so much and be this one outlet for so many different people?
No, I don’t think it’s a burden. I think it’s fascinating and I think it’s also flattering, in a way, that guys are telling me things that they don’t tell anyone else. Maybe it would be weird if this was a big secret in my life, or if I didn’t tell anyone what I did for a living. But all my friends know, my family knows, so it doesn’t feel like it’s anything that I’m harboring in a negative way.
I recently spoke with Elle Stanger, a stripper in Portland, and she and I talked about how one of the things that’s often overlooked in a lot of sex work is how much of the work is emotional. How important a role does intimacy play in your work?
I think that’s huge, and she’s absolutely right. It’s a big part of all types of sex work. Especially in my case, when I am dealing specifically with submissive men, I don’t know if it’s more intense or not. But just the fact that men aren’t really supposed to be submissive, they’re not allowed to be, means I deal with a lot of guys that don’t want to like what they like. Some guys just find it so cathartic and relieving to talk about these things, to let go and give in to desires that maybe they’ve been struggling with or otherwise avoiding. Then sometimes I deal with guys that are really struggling with their fetishes in a way that they really haven’t come to terms with, and sometimes it will come out in anger. Guys will be mad at me, like I took advantage of them somehow, even though they came to me.
You said in your "Love + Radio" interview that you feel like this work can maybe be a little exploitative. Can you elaborate on that, and maybe talk about how you grapple with it?
I think it depends on the customer. I don’t think my work is inherently exploitative, but I do talk to guys that really struggle with this, in terms of how often they’re indulging. I get a lot of guys who are really consumed by their fetishes; I don’t know if addiction is the right word, but there are guys who are very compulsive and seem to lack control. They’re constantly spending beyond their means. I get guys talking about how they can’t perform with their partner and they’d rather jerk off to my videos. It’s hard to say, though, because everything I just described is kind of a fantasy in and of itself. Guys really like the idea of me ruining them in this way, so at times they might just be saying these things because they think it’s hot and it’s all a part of the fantasy and the game. But I think it is a reality for some guys, and I think in that case that there’s definitely some exploitation there -- the fact that they’re really struggling with this, and then I’m gaining financially from that. Those are rare cases; that’s not the norm, but it does exist.
How do I deal with it? I just do my job. It’s weird, I get some guys asking me to be their therapist or to help them stop, and it’s like, that’s not what I do -- that’s not my job. You don’t ask your bartender to help you with your alcoholism. It comes down to personal choice, and I respect their autonomy.
You’ve said humiliation isn’t what you’re into personally. So why do you think you were drawn to this particular corner of the sex industry in the first place?
It’s just what I fell into, I guess. Like I said, I was 17 when I first sold a bottle of piss, so it wasn’t really something I planned out. But I like the fact that I’m not into it -- I really like that fact. It makes it very easy to compartmentalize it; I keep it really separate. I always felt like I found this weird loophole in the sex industry where I feel like I’m doing essentially what any other sex worker is doing, at least mentally. Guys all the time will tell me that this is sex for them; they would rather watch my videos than have sex. The same neurotransmitters are firing off in their brain as a guy who hires a prostitute. But people see what I’m doing and they think it’s cool, and I don’t get the same stigma. It isn’t really fair. I’d like to see there be less stigma put upon all sorts of sex work. I do enjoy my work, I think it’s really fun and I get a kick out of it. I love that I work for myself and set my own hours, all of that is great. But I definitely don’t like it in the same way that my clients like it.
How do people usually react when you describe your job? I’m also curious about how this affects your personal/romantic/sexual relationships.
Well, first of all, I’m from Portland, Oregon, and it’s very liberal here and I think that plays a real big part in why I get the reactions I do when I tell people what I do. They think it’s really cool and almost always the response is really positive. So that’s great. It took me a while to come out to my parents about it. I was lying to them for a while until it got to a point where I was obviously lying. I was making all this money and it seemed clear to me that my parents thought that I was maybe doing something worse than I was, so I thought I might as well tell them. So I told them, and my dad thought it was brilliant; he thinks I’m a genius. My mom and I don’t really talk about it. She just doesn’t really like to talk about things that make her uncomfortable, so it’s just not something we talk about. But otherwise, we have a good relationship. What was the other part of your question?
How do you tell partners about your job and how do they respond.
So I tell everyone. When they ask me what I do for a living, I tell them. The only times I really want to lie is when I just don’t feel like talking about it. Sometimes I just don’t feel like talking in general, and so I’m like, “Ugh, I don’t want to get into this right now.” But I am totally honest with people about what I do, and absolutely honest with partners, because if I’m dating someone and they have a problem with it, I want to know right away. I’ve been doing this a little over 10 years, and I’ve had about three serious relationships since I’ve been doing it, and it’s never been an issue. It’s so far removed from what I think of as sex and what my partners think of as sex that it’s just really easy to compartmentalize.
So what does a typical day look like for you? Or is there no typical day?
Well, as I said before, I do a lot of different things in terms of webcam shows and videos or selling my panties or what have you, so I always try to keep all of those plates spinning. I think of all the components of what I do as a big machine and they all feed off of each other. So if I put out a new video, a guy will want to cam with me or call me or buy my panties. All the things affect each other, and all that is included with tweeting and blogging and stuff like that.
How many different phone lines do you have?
Well, I have my talk lines, where guys can talk to me. I have my cam lines, where they can talk to and see me on cam. And then I have my ignore line, where guys basically just call to be ignored. So I’ll have my phone lines on, and sometimes I don’t. I’m a bit of an introvert and I don’t always feel like talking to people, so only if I feel like it. If I’m going to do some videos I have a little bedroom in my house where I set up studio lights and I have all my slutty clothes in this closet. I’ll get dressed up and set the camera on the tripod and do a video. They’re usually customs. I get a ton of requests so I hardly ever have to think up my own ideas anymore.
About how many requests do you get on average?
I do a spreadsheet of my videos, a new one every three months. So January through March, I had 46 customs.
About how long are they usually?
My videos are anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes, sometimes longer. I’ve had one as long as a half hour, but I don’t do those very much.
How much do you charge for them?
They’re about a dollar a minute [Update: Public videos on the site are a dollar per minute; custom orders range from $150 to $1,000]. There are a couple pay-per-view sites that I upload to and then they take a cut of that. Then I have my own members’ site where it’s subscription-based. Guys will pay a monthly fee and get so many videos streaming. I try and put out four new videos a week. I sell a lot of panties, and if you go on my Twitter there’s all these pictures of these gooey-looking panties from my vaginal discharge. Whenever that occurs I’m like, “Oh I got to get my camera and take a picture of those.” Guys who buy panties just love it; they love the creamy white discharge on it.
What has been the most challenging part of starting your own business and being your own brand?
To be honest, it’s been a fucking dream. It’s been really great, it’s almost been too good to be true. First thing that comes to mind, though, is there’s some creeps out there on the Internet. I’ve had instances where guys will try and dig up my personal information. It doesn’t happen too often, and it’s actually just a couple of isolated incidents in the past 10 years. It’s cool to get all this publicity and this exposure and stuff, but in the back of my mind I do get a little worried that the more eyes on me, the more potential for that kind of danger there is. But I would say that’s probably really the only downside to this.