The Canadian dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford, who was one of three women who initiated an application in the Ontario Superior Court seeking invalidation of Canada's laws regarding brothels, sought to differentiate for clarity her occupation as a dominatrix rather than a prostitute to the media, due to frequent misunderstanding and conflation by the public of the two terms.
While dominatrices come from many different backgrounds, it has been noted that a considerable number are well-educated, with a recent survey of New York dominatrices revealing that 39% had attended graduate school / university, including well-regarded institutions such as Columbia University.
In New York, the dominatrix Anne Laurence was known within the underground circle of acquaintances during the 1950s, with Monique Von Cleef arriving in the early 1960s, and hitting national headlines when her home was raided by police detectives on 22 December 1965.
Von Cleef went on to set up her "House of Pain" in The Hague in the 1970s, which became one of the world capitals for dominatrices, reportedly with visiting lawyers, ambassadors, diplomats and politicians.
A few photographs still exist of the women who ran their domination businesses in London, New York, The Hague and Hamburg's Herbertstraße, predominantly in sepia and black-and-white photographs, and scans from magazine articles, copied and re-copied.
Amongst these were Miss Doreen of London who was acquainted with John Sutcliffe of Atom Age fame, whose clients reportedly included Britain's top politicians and businessmen.
A dominatrix might be of any sexual orientation, but her orientation does not necessarily limit the genders of her submissive partners.
In this scene, the strict dominatrix has stripped the submissive and is caning her buttocks for not playing the violin properly. The history of the dominatrix is argued to date back to rituals of the Goddess Inanna (or Ishtar as she was known in Akkadian), in ancient Mesopotamia.
Ancient cuneiform texts consisting of "Hymns to Inanna" have been cited as examples of the archetype of powerful, sexual female displaying dominating behaviors and forcing Gods and men into submission to her. Nomis notes that Inanna's rituals included cross-dressing of cult personnel, and rituals "imbued with pain and ecstasy, bringing about initiation and journeys of altered consciousness; punishment, moaning, ecstasy, lament and song, participants exhausting themselves with weeping and grief." The profession features in erotic prints of the era, such as the British Museum mezzotint "The Cully Flaug'd" (c.
The term dominatrix is sometimes used to describe a female professional dominant (or "pro-domme") who is paid to engage in BDSM with a submissive.
An appointment or roleplay is referred to as a "session", and is often conducted in a dedicated professional play space which has been set up with specialist equipment, known as a "dungeon".