Apr 30, 2021

Austinites Engaging in the Profitable Fetish of Financial Domination

Reporting Texas

Illustration by Michael Minasi

Things were rocky between Alice and her boyfriend after they split. When the pair got back in touch months later, what started as apology money for her eventually became free dinners, new clothes and emergency pet surgeries. 

They two were no longer dating, but Alice’s ex-boyfriend would give her money when she asked and requested that she verbally abuse him – part of a fetish known as financial domination. It’s a recently popularized type of BDSM — a set of erotic practices that include bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism. 

In financial domination, a financial submissive, “finsub,” pays a financial dominant, “findom,” often without expecting anything in return, and often without meeting in person. In some findom arrangements, dominants hurl insults online at submissives.

Submissives get aroused from the loss of control and surrendering of power, sex experts say.

Unwittingly, Alice had become the financial dominant to her ex-boyfriend, and he had become her financial submissive, sometimes called “paypig.” 

Soon Alice was getting tips on how best to dominate him financially from a classmate at a local university and building similar relationships through Seeking.com, a website for “sugar dating,” another less-extreme type of transactional relationship in which “sugar babies” match with older “mommies” or “daddies.”

“It’s an excellent deal – but I didn’t go out and seek it,” says Alice, now a health worker at a large Austin hospital in her mid-20s. Alice has dialed back her relationship with her now-taken ex-boyfriend, but he still pays her about $100 a month.

In Austin, like other growing tech hubs, conditions appear ripe for a findom scene – if such a thing is even possible for the parasocial fetish, meaning many of those involved never even meet. Austin income has steadily risen since 2011, with the 2019 median household income standing at $81,000, towering $15,000 above the state and national medians. 

This story will use pseudonyms to protect privacy.

Mistress Odette began training as a dominatrix in New York 11 years ago — a situation she describes as stressful — and moved to Austin three years later. Odette, who does not practice findom, differentiates it from more traditional domination. All “dommes,” or female dominators, “exchange ‘tribute’ for interactions, articles, attention. In findom, the transfer of money is the interaction,” she wrote in an email. “It is not tied to another service or exchange.”

In other words, nothing physical.

Joe Kort, a clinical sexologist who studies human sexuality and sexual behavior, works with patients in the Detroit area and provides sex consultation around the country. Kort explains that the payments — which can be both random or regular — are worked out between finsubs and findoms based on ability to pay.

“I call it BDSM without rope,” says Kort. “The rope is taking somebody’s money, holding them hostage, taking over their accounts.”

Sometimes the possibility of serious financial strain can be a major turn-on for both parties, and Kort has heard stories of husbands hiding their payments from their spouses, landing couples in upwards of $100,000 in debt, though such stories are few and far between.

“[Finsubs] can be from their 20s all the way to their 80s. It is not about the amount of money or type of job they have. It is a kink that crosses all ages, races, genders, sexual orientation and incomes,” says Kort.

Kort also says straight men sometimes engage in findom with other men — it allows for an erotic power exchange without sexuality. “Some of the straight men doing it are turned on by having power over another man, not being attracted to the man. This is the case for women too,” says Kort.

Kort notes findom’s popularity is on the rise. Google Trends reports virtually no search data for “findom” until about 2013 and a consistent increase ever since. That’s around the time a man with the Twitter username Stupid Paypig found out about it.

“I read an article about it online and thought it was ridiculous,” says Stupid Paypig, a gay Spanish freelance translator in his 40s. But after reading Tumblr blogs about “serving not sexually,” he was hooked. Paypig says he most often pays men five to 30 euros though, on rare occasions, that number can increase to 70 or 100.

Other than his sexual orientation, Paypig falls into the typical demographic of men who see Mistress Odette. “There are definitely more people with higher incomes that facilitate paying for sex work. The demographic of those who most often seek my services are white males over the age of 40. This is still overwhelmingly the case, but with some younger clients and couples sprinkled in,” says Odette.

The parasocial aspect keeps some Austin dominatrixes, like Mistress Odette, from engaging in findom. “I’ve found findom to be impersonal and unrewarding, but others are able to create really meaningful interactions from it,” she says.

And even in casual relationships where money plays a central role – like the overindulgence of a partner with money or gifts known as “spoiling” – the impersonal aspect can be a major obstacle as well.

Though it is available as a free service, Kenneth Lewallen — his real name — pays for his Seeking.com membership. Kenneth, 49, who is in an open marriage, notes that he’s always spoiled his partners in relationships. He makes $500,000 annually from his real estate ventures. When he started dating his now-husband, he bought him a car.

But when it comes to non-reciprocation, he doesn’t like when guys are just looking for money and not something else. He does appreciate findom for what it is, though.

“If you are a hot guy and you can get a guy to pay you $1,000 to have sex with you – phenomenal. And if you can get him to pay you $1,000 to have dinner with you – even better!” He laughs.

Lewallen says his spoiling nature may have been picked up from watching his mother take care of people, and his distaste for young men expecting handouts reflects his conservative politics.

Kort believes fetishes arise during one’s early development and that findom is no different. 

“Maybe you grew up in a home that didn’t have any money, or had too much money, and now you can’t make that kind of money. Or money was overvalued in your house. Or undervalued,” Kort said. “Money has to be eroticized. Money has to mean something to you.”