“Alexa, red lights,” Mistress Hex commands. 

Joe, a construction worker from Long Island, sits naked on a crucifix-like apparatus, his wrists and ankles chained. After hours of expensive kicks, jolts and a tube up the urethra that cost him $2,100 total, he is a mosaic of purples and gashes. 

Hex picks up a metal-studded whip. “Sing ‘Jingle Bells,’” she commands. “I’ve got really into Christmas this year,” she adds, gesturing to the Christmas tree and candy canes decorating her rented Bushwick dungeon. 

Stoic and bloodied, his head lolling to the side from exhaustion, Joe manages a few broken lyrics. With each missed word, her lashes gain force.  Though suddenly, when her playlist changes to Nine Inch Nails, Hex lowers her arm and the two lock eyes. They geek out and rock their heads side to side, before she resumes lashing. 

“I like that we get to laugh and make jokes,” Joe says after the session, nursing a bruised penis. “It humanizes the whole thing for me, which is important. It reminds me that she has a warmth to her.”  The pair stroll around the dungeon, enchanted by metal paddles and electric fly swats; as equals outside of a sexual arrangement, they chat pets and booster shot side effects.

For Hex, BDSM can’t be reduced to pain. “It’s a framework, a lexicon and a community for people to be whoever they want,” she says. (JC Dhien)

Days earlier, cozied up on a sex swing, Hex sits fresh-faced in a baggy t-shirt, her loose blond curls falling around an angelic baby face. Hidden within an inconspicuous townhouse in Bushwick, the dominatrix’s airy state-of-the-art dungeon, lined with mirrors and pink neon lights, displays every species of weapon on its walls. A pommel horse, hanging harness and a surgical table take center stage, with bottles of medical-grade disinfectant nearby.

Hex, 25, calls herself a “seasoned vet” of the sex work industry. She estimates that she’s one of about 200 dominatrices in New York City and sees about three submissives per week, starting at $360 per hour.

Clients might request anything from two-hour CBT (a cock and ball torture, not to be confused with cognitive behavioral therapy), to financial domination or medical kinks with hypodermic needles and scalpels. Some sessions can last all night.  They may also opt for an old-fashioned flogging or, as is one of Hex’s unique offerings, have her defecate on their faces. “No two BDSM sessions look the same,” she explains, gently swinging.

Customers can also schedule social interactions with Hex outside of her sex dungeon, which run more expensive. Shopping trips or museum visits start at $800 for two hours. Texting is charged per message. But is there ever a connection with clients? Friendship? Genuine care? “Absolutely,” Hex says. “But if you’re taking up a lot of my time, you have to pay for me. I’m not your girlfriend.” 

Former cam girl, escort, sugar baby and stripper, Hex is a master of her field. “Sex work is like any other job. Some people love that job; some people hate it,” she says. “I just happen to really fucking love it.” 

Before committing to full-time dom work last year, Hex did public relations for fashion companies. “I worked 12 hours a day,” she recalls. “I couldn’t sustain friendships or a relationship; I had no free time, and I still wasn’t making ends meet.”  She relied on sex work on the side.

A chronic blood condition called porphyria also drew her to sex work’s flexibility — and gore. “Many sex workers have chronic illnesses,” she explains. Porphyria reduces appetite, causes insomnia, lowers blood pressure, triggers sunlight rashes and turns urine a bright, blood red. Its nickname? The vampire’s disease. Fittingly, she points to a glass vial of her husband’s blood, worn on a silver chain around her neck; her partner — who is also a sex worker and met just over a year ago — wears a vial of hers, too. She keeps a video on her phone of that time she drank his blood through a straw. “I felt stronger after,” she admits. 

For Hex, BDSM can’t be reduced to pain. “It’s anything from beating people up to mommy stuff; toilet stuff; sploshing, which is basically just a food fight,” she explains.  “It’s a framework, a lexicon and a community for people to be whoever they want,” she adds. “It’s about freedom.” 

While every slap is real, Hex’s craft also involves pantomiming danger. “I have to know not to hit your kidneys, tailbone or certain places on your knee,” she explains. A client in medicine trained her to work with scalpels, needles, staples and phlebotomy.

Her clients, who find her via Twitter or her website, defy the stereotype of businessmen yearning to resign themselves to another person’s control. “Submissives cannot be generalized,” she says. But there is a common thread: “People just want to feel seen and cared for.” For instance, 60 percent of her clients are Hasidic men from nearby Williamsburg — not simply due to religious repression, she says, but rather a longing to be accepted.  

For her, it’s about power — but whilst BDSM can simulate worship, the dom-sub relationship emphasizes consent. Clients first negotiate to establish safe words, hard and soft limits and expectations. If a scene goes awry, both parties stop to communicate. “Yellow, yellow!” Joe had called out apologetically, after 10 minutes of a latex boot to the balls. “Sorry, lots of ‘yellows’ today!”

This explicit recognition of needs and desires is often lacking in more traditional relationships, Hex thinks. She says the idea that pleasure should be 50/50 is often a pretense in those relationships, particularly for women who date cisgender men — but in dom-sub relationships, “I can pay my bills, and you get to feel how you want to feel. And you can also do that without feeling judged.”


The next day, Hex hosts a BDSM party named “Glory” in a Bushwick bar. There, an elderly man in a pink latex bra, tight leopard trousers and a police hat whips a bent-over body in cow-themed lingerie; a voluptuous woman wrapped tightly in ropes hangs from the ceiling as a corseted nun strikes her with a paddle. 

Rushing around, Hex oversees the event like a professional, before joining the entwined mass of bodies. Gliding her long red nails over a woman’s ass, she proceeds to spank her with increasing force; an enthralled audience in leather hotpants, fishnet stockings and gimp masks watches. Her husband watches too, equally proud and aroused. 

Days later, in the dungeon, Joe steps into his underwear. As he attends to the session’s physical and financial damage, he admits, “Paying for a dominatrix is not appealing. It downright sucks.”  He adds, “I do want to connect. Not just be abused.” But he feels anti-social and phobic about dating apps, so finding real world kinksters seems too daunting. 

Concerned about the bruising, Hex instructs Joe to ice his penis. 

“I think the best part about Hex,” he says, “is that she’s always Hex.” 

(Dahlia Domme)

Top image credit: JC Dhien.

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