August 15th, 2009

Christina Cicchelli: Interview with a Dominatrix

During my performance at Sex Worker Literati, I noticed a beautiful woman in the audience giving me serious telepathic support. She was nodding, smiling, and laughing at all the crucial moments. Not only did it seems like she wanted me to succeed, it was like she heard the message of my monologue. She understood it.

Afterward, when I went up to her to thank her, I realized why my tale might appeal to her more than the average bear: she was a sex-worker too. Sorta “former,” but more like current, with porno experience on both coasts who mostly made her living as a dominatrix, fetish consultant, sex writer, and all-out cool person. Here’s the story of Christina Cicchelli, aka Simone Valentino.

Christina, I’m interested in interviewing you specifically because you have experience in both the porn world and the dom world. Which came first? I’m assuming the dom stuff - is that right? How did you make the transition to porno? And what was that like?

Honestly, neither of the porn or pro-dom work came first. When I decided to take a leap into the adult industry, I started out as a stripper in Connecticut, which lasted two nights only. I was no good at the poles and the bouncers didn’t approve of my lap dance behavior (mostly grinding my ass into the laps of paying customers… they have to get their money’s worth, right?) So, that was very brief. I tried sending my photos to Fetish websites, all to no avail. Then, I started to get attention from New Jersey pornographers (the shadiest of the bunch, from my observation). I performed an “audition” which was the worst time of my life. To make a long story short, I did everything that a girl shouldn’t do when trying to break into the industry. But, once I dropped out of school and moved to New York City, I took up stripping again, failed at it again, and it was then that I saw an ad in the newspaper for Mistresses at a NYC dungeon. I set up an appointment and spent my first training session watching this beautiful red-haired dom work her large dildo into the ass of a flustered, highly excited British businessman. And I knew I found the job of my dreams. So, to me, my career as a professional dom started there. Later, I answered an inquiry on Craig’s List from a man who was seeking new talent. We talked and he told me that because of my race and my look, I would never be the next Jenna Jameson, which was never my intention. I told him that maybe this is why I should be in porn, because there is no one else like me. We spoke and, through him, I worked at another dungeon (now defunct) and met Joe Gallant, who would eventually film my first porn scene. Unlike my first attempt, when I was finally settled in New York, I was fortunate to have met very positive people who could have taken advantage of my naivety, but didn’t. Everyone enjoyed being in the business, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. It was almost like joining a family… who loved whippings and enema art (A reference to Gallant’s artwork).

You’re an NYC woman and a successful professional dom. We had a quick-ass conversation about your trip to Los Angeles where you did a little porn. You never stayed and I can only assume it was not exactly to your liking down there — tell me an LA story from that trip.

Ha! LA was fun, let me kid you not, but most of my enjoyment sprung from the misadventures I had gotten into when I wasn’t trying to land a gig. I also knew that if I wanted to stay in the business, I had to visit the Motherland some time or another. I was still radiating from performing my first anal threesome (and my first porn scene ever!) with Aaralyn Barra and Jeremy Stone. Aaralyn was flying out to LA that morning and asked if I wanted to join her. Of course, I jumped at the chance, but Joe wanted to use me for a scene with Michelle Aston in his apocalyptic porno Avenue X, so I naturally stayed behind (How could one resist?) He and his merry crew of perverts had to travel West to film more scenes, and I was under the impression that I would be performing in these scenes. Lack of communication proved me wrong, so I had flown out with very little money and no work lined up. So, of course, when we arrived I was very stressed because I had to snag a scene and make some cash so I could return home. However, the first week was amazing. Highlights included tripping on shrooms with my girlfriend whilst Joe filmed his group sex scene in the Mojave Desert, sharing sushi with Eon McKai and heading to Dupont’s for two meals a day with Joe, Mariano, Keith, and whomever else decided to join us. Again, a real family affair. But, they had to leave, and I wanted to stay for curiosity’s (and money’s) sake. Joe’s words to me before they departed: “Don’t become a cunt rag.” Crass, I know, but I understood it well. After a week in LA, it felt like no one seemed, well, authentic. Every girl outdid the other in massive tits and bleached hair. Every other guy looked like Sean Michaels (seriously). As a voyeur, it was an incredible landscape and culture to observe. But, as a sex worker, it was soulless. I finally snagged a scene with Dino Bravo, who took me under his wing while I remained in LA. That was fun. But, once I had to make the trips through the windowless buildings of Silicone Valley, take off my clothes, pose for Polaroids, and list my dos and donts like spouting off a grocery list, it all seemed so numbing I had to get back home. At least, in NYC, they wine and dine you a bit. I was glad too.

With Brian Surewood

A lot of the doms I know will not do full-on penetration and stuff, but apparently from what I see from your film work, you will. Was there an intermediary stage with your sex work … i.e., is it part of what you did in your “private practice” to fuck a client every so often? What are your boundaries?

Actually, I kept my dom life and my porn life as separate as I could, which meant that while I would lovingly fuck on film I wouldn’t do so as a dominatrix. You see, during this time, I worked at a fetish dungeon. I respected the rules and didn’t want to get the place busted, so my reputation was kept squeaky clean. Besides, it takes a very intense scene for me to lose so much control that I want to have sex, and that’s only happened once out of my fetish career. I did share a couple of intimate moments with a client, but he was so much fun! Crazy, but fun. And it took me a while to let my defenses down and truly get into the scene that he wanted, which had nothing to do with domination in its traditional sense. For clients who truly loved the BDSM and wanted to worship me as Domme (as they should), there was a sense of power in keeping my distance and prolonging the mystery as much as I could. Which was why it was difficult, at one point, for me to balance being a dominatrix with my porn career. I didn’t want my clients to think that what they see on the television screen was what they would get. Those are two very different worlds. And, they didn’t pay me to be Simone Valentino. They paid me to be Mistress Simone. This was when it was very important to me to strengthen my boundaries. Sex was never on the table. It was never expected, and if I even so much as kissed them on the cheek, then they should be thankful for such a privilege. I could fuck them in the ass if I wanted, but they wouldn’t receive handjobs or blowjobs. If I wanted to get topless, then I could, but that rarely happened during the first sessions I shared with a new client. Quite simply, they submitted to me and my terms. And, if they didn’t like it, then they knew where to go.

The thing that I respect about doms, coming from the basically mindless world of hardcore pornography, is that there’s there seems to be this mental aspect to domination. Tell me all about it. Who are you to them? Why do they want to come to you in particular? Would I like to be dominated, do you think?

Is there not a mental aspect to pornography? Shouldn’t there be? To me, that’s the disheartening aspect of the porn world, and, perhaps, why I enjoyed being a dominatrix so much. In porn, it’s always about sex. Always. Sure, there’s foreplay, there’s toys. But, at the end of the day, it’s about penetration, money shot, and that’s it. After a while, I got bored of the porn scene, and there were only a handful of moments in my brief career in which I shared a moment with an actor and was not only excited by his good looks and temperament, but by his maturity and his intelligence. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty rare in that industry. Not to say that every Tom, Dick, and Harry that walks through the door of a dungeon is an intellectual. In fact, sometimes - as it is in any part of the adult industry - you’ll have to dominate someone who is boring, straightforward, perverse in an uninteresting way. I remember when Francis and I had spoken about moments when we would just hurry up, do the scene, and get them out of there. We wouldn’t even want to put effort into it. For me, these types of sessions occur when a client wants to come in and has nothing to offer but money and a shortchanged fantasy, all so he could jerk off and hopefully see your tits. But, when I meet a client who is open-minded and is ready to surrender his comforts and power to me, then I become a goddess. I become ethereal. I feed his fetish and help him build a world that, for one hour or more (depending on how much he paid), he is no longer an employee, a doctor, a mailman, a father, etc. He, too, becomes something else altogether. Some clients who enjoyed spending time with me were cross-dressers and those who sought intense role play sessions. They may have noted my femininity, sophistication, and creativity as traits that they felt comfortable with. Of course, every client seeks something special in a Mistress. I can only assume they discovered something special in me. My guess, Sam, is that you might like to be surrendered if the dom romances you a bit. One moment, she’s whispering sweet nothings in your ear, and the next moment you’re kissing her shiny new shoes while she pours hot candle wax on your back. That’s my estimation, anyway.

When we were having our after-show pep talk, we were all dissing on sex work, sort of planning to quit it, and sort of planning to keep on reaping the rewards of it. Tell me the absolute BEST part of sex work and why you would never want to forsake it.

After being a sex worker, on and off, for about five years and actually acquiring a full-time job with, but mostly without, benefits, there are two reasons why I love the former over the latter. For one, sex work is never boring. I have mentioned before that when a certain client or performer occupies your time, it feels more like a job than a fantasy. But, when I became an independent dominatrix and phone sex operator, it was easier to promote myself and, thus, receive the type of clients that worked best with my style. Most of these clients were cross-dressers, men who liked to be dominated by their mothers or teachers, foot fetishists, etc. My hours spent with these gentlemen were very fulfilling. My independence and flexible schedule was such a treat. Never had I felt more like an individual than when I’m involved in sex work. Can you get that type of freedom when you’re someone’s employee? Of course not. Not when you dropped out of school and have to lie to each new employer you meet (According to them, I’m an Honors Graduate with an English Degree, which still hasn’t gotten me far). Another reason why I love being a sex worker is because I can really use my creativity to help people and expand upon my own skills. I’ve dabbled in almost every type of sex work you can think of, from porno to prostitution and back again. I’ve learned so much about human sexuality and I received so many amazing opportunities to speak about my experiences in forums that I would have never known about. And I do love talking about sex… which gets me in trouble almost every time I’m working a normal job. To your average Joe Schmo, I’m a misanthropic, quiet, sometimes uncomfortably crude ticket girl. But, to my clients, I am their mother, their caretaker, their girlfriend, their Goddess. My words and actions mean more to them than it ever would have to other “civilians”. Who couldn’t love a lifestyle like that?

You put on your site that you’re a Fetish Consultant — what is it? Do you help couples? Screenwriters hoping to write about the dom life?

As a Fetish Consultant, I assist both individuals and couples with their fantasy - no matter how outrageous or minute it may be - and give them an opportunity to use it in the bedroom and in their sex lives. I give my clients advice, assignments, and sometimes point them to or accompany them to events where they can let their freak flag fly high. Assignments can vary from writing erotic stories to learning how to use dirty talk, which slowly allows your fetish to exist in the bedroom. One great example is a cross dresser whom I’d help for a couple of weeks. Together we pinpointed his feminine style, accessorized clothes and make-up, practiced everything from gestures to feminine walks, and even went out to a bar as girlfriends. After writing my first article on furry love (which you can check out on my website or blog), someone had approached me with tips on how to initiate her furry fetish and share it with her partner. So, simply put, I teach you how to become a better pervert, with or without your lover :). I can teach you how to play in the bedroom, which prolongs and enhances the sexual experience altogether. And, yes, screenwriters can come to me to breathe some realism into their own sordid tales, although I haven’t attracted anyone with that specific request just yet.

Why do you think you were drawn to sex work in general? Are you more outgoing than most? Lots of secret hidden traumas from the childhood? Or do you just like FREAKS n WEIRDOS deeply. . .

Personally, I’ve had my share of weird encounters with grownups, both as a young girl and now, but I wouldn’t define any of it as traumatic. I’d always been curious about sex, and, even at a young age, I would read works from Betty Dodson, Susie Bright, and Pat Califia to gain a liberating perspective on the matter. By the time I was in college, I felt so much pressure to maintain my grades and be successful that I, for once, just wanted to lose control and do something fun. And I loved sex. Why not go into sex work? And, what a beautiful choice. Never had I been so inspired to be a writer, an artist, and a feminist than when I performed onstage, in a fetish dungeon, or in front of a camera.  And honestly, I do like the weirdos… mainly because I’m one of them.


Christina Cicchelli is a “Sexventurer” of sorts; she’s spent over five years as a sex worker and has experience in a myriad of industries, including phone sex and professional domination. As a Mistress, she has worked in several NYC Dungeons and also visited devoted clients on an independent basis. As a phone sex operator, she maintained a large amount of callers who sought her guidance, creativity, and experience in fetish and role-play.

Christina is best known for her career as a porn actress. Under the non de plume, Simone Valentino, she’s performed in a handful of films. She received an AVN nomination for “Best Actress” for her role in Afrodite Superstar and also won “Best New Starlet” at the Feminist Porn Awards in 2008 for her role in Audacia Ray’s The Bi Apple.

Christina is now monthly columnist for $pread Magazine and writes about all things fetish in own blog, A Fantastic Nightmare. She is also a Fetish Consultant for individuals and couples who are seeking some kinky inspiration.

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