Aleta Cai is not only educated in psychology, film studies and energy healing, but she is also a professional dominatrix. She chose to leave the 9-to-5 office life for something she found more challenging and more passionate: a lifestyle to live and breathe, not just a job. We talked about the misconceptions she faces about her work and how the new commercial interest for BDSM is affecting the lifestyle.

Why do you think people are drawn to BDSM? What are they looking for?

I think it’s a sexuality that we don’t fully understand yet. I think that sometimes that’s just the way people are born. Even if I didn’t realize it until my 20s, this is something that has always been present in my life. Within my work I deal a lot with clients that have a trauma related to a specific female archetype. Many people also come to me particularly because I have a healing vantage point where we can work through whatever trauma they have. So many people are continuously seeking this out and I feel that they are looking for some kind of resolution or a way to play something out in a safe space. It can make them feel more in control of their trauma or their repetitive pattern and they get a chance to rework it. However, it’s not always trauma based- for some it’s a journey of self-discovery and limit-expansion, and for others it’s for the thrill of something different. I’ve come to find that everyone approaches BDSM differently. The most important part is understanding the individual needs of everyone I encounter.

How do you use your education specifically in you work?

My psychology degree helps me understand larger patterns at play and what governs our intimate relationships. My film studies gave me a softer focus in terms of individual psychology and fantasies. My studies in energy healing helps me channel my own energy in order to heal my clients. There’s a lot of energy exchange inherent in BDSM but if you can target more of a divine energy, a subtler energy, then you can really heal the person from the inside and out. You can make them feel free within their own bodies.

What are some misconceptions about your work you’ve come across?

One of the first questions people ask is if there is any sex. There’s not. Even though I deal with sexuality, there’s a big delineation between sexuality and sex. I don’t target a physical sexuality, but a metaphysical and an intellectual one. The second stereotype I meet is that people assume that I’m a victim and that I do this because I can’t get a legitimate job. I hold a master from NYU and I was hired for a full time job before I even finished my undergrad. The taboos I have to deal with day-to-day are just much more stimulating to me.

I’m also an Asian domme, which is directly contradictory to the role Asian women are assigned in society, where there’s a clear submissive stereotype. Because of that, some people assume that I’m only playing a role, but that’s incorrect.There has been an increased interest in culture for BDSM and, in some ways, it has become a trend that’s more fashionable than sexual. How do you feel about that since it’s your lifestyle and your work?

I have mixed feelings about this. The mainstream appeal and the aesthetic of BDSM I find are stripping the actual culture and subculture of meaning. As much as it’s great that people become more open and aware of it, this trend is playing out stereotypes connected to the lifestyle that are not true.

So, in a sense, the trend is working to re-stereotype?

Exactly, it’s reaffirming certain stereotypes perpetuated from ignorance. I find that there is a dilution happening with the fetish element because the allure of fetish is that it needs to be a rare subculture, and when you strip it of that taboo you dissolve the original intent. By distributing an ignorant and very distilled version of BDSM they are ruining its magnetism and draw. There’s a duality happening where on the one hand it’s great that people are being more open-minded and culture is becoming more accepting of the sexuality, but there is also harm within the re-stereotyping that can actually have the reverse effect on society accepting this lifestyle. I think there needs to be a secondary movement educating people.