The first thing Rose does after a patron joins her Twitter Space is to verify that they aren’t “owned” by someone else. In the realm of digital sadomasochism, it’s sacrilege to subjugate a sub who is currently enthralled by another domme. “It can get you in a lot of trouble and give you a bad name,” she says. “It’s a huge no-no.” So, Rose clicks over to their profile and investigates the forensics of their timeline. Once the john is cleared of any lingering indentured allegiances, she seamlessly switches into her mistress candor and gets down to work. Rose runs this Space like a professional black-leather dungeon; anyone in the sanctum best get their wallet out.
“We’ll beat down on them,” she explains. “If you’re just going to sit here and try to get some free content, we’re going to kick you out and you’re not going to be able to rejoin for the rest of the night. If they end up sending tribute, which for me is $20, then we can start.”
The latest obsession among the coastal tech conglomerates is live, collaborative audio. Every major player wants a piece of the pie; Spotify launched “Green Room,” Alpha Exploration broke ground on “Clubhouse” and Twitter countered with “Twitter Spaces.” All of these apps are angling for the exact same territory: They allow users to generate makeshift cyberspace TED Talk-style seminars on the fly, where quasi-influencers react to the day’s news for a handful of dedicated stans. (A few people in the room are granted microphone privileges, while everyone else sits and listens. It’s basically a live podcast with a strong improvisational verve.) But like most innovations that germinate directly from the distressed minds of the Jack Dorsey class, the social audio apparatus was expressly designed to attract the endorsements of other Silicon Valley mouthbreathers. You will not be surprised to know that Bill Simmons is an early adopter, same with Kara Swisher, Mark Cuban and every other billionaire who believes the algorithms will take us beyond the stars.
Within that context, I like to imagine that Dorsey didn’t expect Rose, and countless other sex workers, to dutifully tear down the antiseptic, money-guy veneer hovering over big tech’s latest parasocial ploy. Each of them have witnessed a plain truth that no boardroom could ever perceive: Twitter Spaces aren’t an arena equipped for depressing Bitcoin debates or seedy Wall Street porn. No, in its purest form, Twitter Spaces are best deployed as a means to titillate and humiliate the paypigs.
“They can hear your voice. It’s not just text behind a screen. If you’re a dominant person, the clients can feel it. If we’re texting, we have the ability to stop responding or we can block them, but on Spaces it’s much easier,” Rose tells me. “If they come in, and they haven’t tributed any of the Dommes, we just boot them.”
Rose explains that she started her domme career in early 2021, and only brought her craft to Spaces in May. (She doesn’t actually have the authorization to start her own lobby. Instead, a fellow domme grants Rose access to her Space, and the pair collaborate in their degradation efforts.) Clearly it’s working out. The $20 tribute might not seem like much, but the money keeps flowing the deeper she gets in the roleplay. In fact, Rose tells me she’s had a client transfer $600 over the course of an evening. “He wasn’t even into findom, but he still dropped a lot of cash that night,” remembers Rose. “He messaged us and said, ‘I just liked listening to you guys talk.’”
After a client pays their dues, Rose and the other domme welcomes them into a “session.” This can either happen live — where the pair will relentlessly berate the sub in front of the congregation gathered in the Space — or they’ll spirit off to a Skype call where the salacious action happens privately. Both options have their pros and cons, says Rose. Private treatments force her to temporarily close down the Space, resetting the audience back to zero, which carries a sizable opportunity cost. But she also doesn’t love the idea of demonstrating her craft in a public forum, where other customers can greedily feed off the drippings without tapping into their bank account for the same privilege. That’s one of the first things you learn in the digital sex trade — no free feet pics, no free domination.
Personally, I’ve never paid for a dungeon session, much less a virtual BDSM facsimile, so it’s difficult for me to imagine what a domme appointment in a Twitter Space would even entail. But the women I spoke to all made it clear that the sheer intimacy of live audio totally transcends what was possible in the dark ages, where feminine superiority could only be enforced through long DMs and a CashApp link. Sure, plenty of subs can get their rocks off by sending 50 bucks to an anonymous mistress who will happily bring them to a brilliant cucked euphoria. But to truly build a lasting relationship within the sadomasochistic binary — for it all to be made oh so tantalizingly real — an actual conversation must occur between the two participants in the fantasy.
“It’s an easier way for subs to get to know the Dommes,” says Mistress Red, a findom in Bulgaria who’s active on Twitter Spaces and sets her initial tribute at 25 Euros. “I hate texting. If you give me the option to speak, I will take advantage of it as much as possible. I find it better because subs can actually hear the tone of my voice.”
Addictive Abby, another findom, concurs. “Spaces give a lot more to a sub than text can give. The tone and emotion behind my words are much more powerful when they can hear them,” she says. “In a long-distance dynamic, it makes you feel closer in a way. It’s a great way to build bonds with both subs and other Dommes.”
To that end, Rose notes that the voice connection benefits both ends of the supply chain. There is no shortage of scammers on the internet’s BDSM exchange. Last year, I wrote about the emergence of “catfish kink” — actors on the web who transparently pose as beautiful women, appeasing patrons who are aroused by the idea of getting scammed. For those who don’t engage with that pleasure index, joining Rose’s Twitter Space is a relief. “It’s nice that they know it’s actually a female on the other end of the computer,” she says.
Who knows how long that will last. Everyone in the sex industry is currently living under the shadow of OnlyFans’ since-retracted bombshell prohibition announcement. The company, which quickly established itself as the central bazaar for thousands of sex workers, had decided to put a moratorium on all “explicit” content, before “suspending” that action after significant public pressure. That debacle stayed on my mind throughout the reporting of this story. These Dommes have found a fascinating new monetary stream under the nose of a massive, publicly-traded social media company. Given the prudishness that consistently emanates out of Silicon Valley’s terms of service, it’s not hard to imagine a future where Twitter clamps down on the tribute rooms.
Of course, each of the Dommes I interviewed had a sanguine perspective on that potential catastrophe. Yes, says Addictive Abby, Twitter could absolutely purge her stopgap dungeon from its servers, but another venue will inevitably take its place. (She speculates that Discord could make for a good home.) From Patreon, to Tumblr, to OnlyFans, sex workers are perpetually escaping to a new frontier. Rose tells me she already feels the walls closing in. She fears that Twitter might delete her account every time she advertises her offerings, which is why she’s very selective in the verbiage of her tweets. “It’s just another social media platform that we’re not allowed to broadcast on,” she says.
I suppose this will be the precarious reality for all sex workers until the country finally stops its long, pointless war on the adult industry. Someday, Visa and Mastercard won’t shrivel at the thought of processing porn transactions, and escorts won’t risk corporate retribution by hashtagging their weekend openings. Until then, the Dommes will keep infiltrating all the nouveau appendages dreamt up by the tech oligarchs, turning them on their head. They’ll give the people what they want, always one step ahead of the mods.