When I meet Lucy Sweetkill at a small coffee shop in downtown Manhattan, she’s donning all black, right down to her larger-than-life cat-eye sunglasses and the sharp eyeliner behind them. She’s visibly intimidating, but by no means is she cold or disengaged—instead, she proceeds to talk to me about her work openly and unabashedly. After moving from the Bay Area to New York to work in fashion, Lucy began immersing herself more and more in the world of domming. Now, she’s a full-blown, full-time professional dominatrix, using BDSM to heal trauma and catalyze profound self-discovery. Right before our cover shoot, I talked to Lucy about benefiting from the Asian fetish, armpit worship, and why sex work honestly, truly can be autonomous.
Lithium: How do your clients start seeing you?
Lucy: It usually starts with a client reaching out in an appropriate manner. Appropriate manner meaning, for anyone who reads this—(Laughs)—using the avenue a sex worker gives you. If she has a website and she asks that you fill out a submission form, fill out her submission form! If she has a phone number and she asks you to call her between 10 A.M. and 8 P.M., do it during that time! Like, I don’t like people DMing me. I don’t think that’s appropriate. You don’t DM a restaurant for a reservation or a doctor or a lawyer—that’s not really okay. So why do you think it’s okay to DM me and be like, “When can I see you?”
Lithium: What’s the longest session you’ve ever had?
Lucy: I have people who fly here and the only time they play is when they’re in New York, so they’ll plan their vacation around here. Like, a big part of their vacation is seeing me. And so we’ll have a three or four-day scene filled with activities, tasks, dinners, lunches, and just times to meet. It’s more elaborate, but it isn’t always intense. You know? There may be moments of intensity, but there may also be moments when we’re just having lunch.
Those sessions might involve a task they have to do, and so it can be very creative. It just depends on your own imagination. And it also depends on asking. I always tell people—if you have elaborate fantasies and ideas, just ask. Because you’d be surprised by the things that can happen. I’m a dominatrix, but fundamentally I’m a purveyor of erotic experiences. I like to create experiences that are once-in-a-lifetime. I find it really amazing and fascinating and life-changing.
I always tell my clients—on your deathbed, I want to be one of the top ten memories you’ve ever had.
Lithium: It’s really interesting to me that you don’t just stick to talking about kink on your social media. Do you think that’s a business tactic for coming across as more personal, or is it more just about humanizing yourself and showing that you have a life outside of domming?
Lucy: I think it’s both. First, I think it’s a personal choice that I made to keep myself sane with social media. Like, I am not a fan of social media. I don’t have Facebook. I never update my personal Instagram. (Laughs) I’m on social media because I have to—it’s part of business and it’s part of this world, right? I also didn’t want to be a person that just did selfies. I didn’t want it to be shallow.
Plus, not only does it humanize me as a sex worker, but it makes me accessible! And it’s actually worked well for me. It’s kept me in a better mental space, and a lot of my clients have been very vocal about the things I’m interested in. They feel more connected to me. I’ve had amazing dinners with clients who are like, “I love that you posted this travel article.” And then we’ll talk about travel and food, and all these other things that connect us.
Lithium: I know you talked a bit on the Pillow Talk podcast about simultaneously benefiting financially from the Asian fetish, but at the same time feeling like there’s a huge element of racial depersonalization. What was the response to the podcast, and have your feelings changed about it at all?
Lucy: I’m definitely still in the middle of it. But also—can I make it better? I’m looking at it as an opportunity instead of a problem in the sense that I can teach my clients a better way to treat their kinks and the specific types of women they’re interested in. Like, let’s say you’re attracted to Asian women. How do you go about that in a positive, non-offensive way? Why do you like Asian women? And is it really all Asian women? Because it might have started with, “Oh, I like all Asian women,” but then as they start to get to know themselves more, they start to realize that at some point they met an Asian woman who was really kind to them. Or didn’t judge them. And it’s not about the surface-level stuff, it was the deeper meaning. What they’re searching for is someone who accepts them or helps them. Maybe that’s actually what they’re attracted to—maybe they grew up in a very white community and their attraction to Asian women is not about the fact that they’re Asian, but that they represent something different from what they’re used to and they’re really just attracted to learning about differences. So, you know, I’m just trying to see it as more of an opportunity to teach my clients more than anything else. And allow them to have a safe space to express their interests.
Lithium: What are your hard limits in terms of what you won’t offer to a client?
Lucy: I don’t offer the traditionally vanilla sexual contact. So no blowjobs—no jobs of any kind! Footjobs, handjobs. (Laughs) I don’t do P-in-V vaginal sex.
Lithium: Are there dommes that do that?
Lucy: Yes! And I appreciate those who are very clear on that. Most clients—most people—should understand that everyone provides what they choose to provide. Just because you see one dominatrix doesn’t mean you can expect [what she offers from every dominatrix].
For me, I’m not interested in what I consider conventional sexual interactions. Like, there are so many avenues you can get that from—I’m not interested in it. I’m more interested in the unconventional things. That’s why kink and BDSM are my specialty. I want you to get outside of focusing on orgasms and penis-in-vagina penetration. I also don’t offer intimate body worship, because again, that just feels very conventional. I like my feet worshipped, though, since that’s more unconventional to me than somebody being like, “Oh, I want to worship your ass!” Like, what straight man doesn’t want to worship a woman’s ass? I have clients who are like, “I wanna worship your armpits,” and I think that’s awesome! That’s so cool, right? That you can say that.
I also don’t offer red showers (the act of bleeding on someone), Roman showers (the act of vomiting on someone as a form of erotic play), and of course anything that’s non-consensual including children, animals, and certain types of public play—I conduct group scenes that have a public play feel. I love golden play, but I’m personally not comfortable with what we call brown showers.
Lithium: A huge thing we see in the entertainment industry is women being pitted against each other. Do dommes feel a sense of competition toward one another, or is it more about promoting and uplifting each other?
Lucy: I think there’s still a little bit of both, unfortunately. There are some women out there who feel very competitive and because of that, they keep themselves from the community. They don’t want to offer support, and they don’t really make an effort to meet up with other dommes or offer references. And that’s their choice, you know? But I think currently, because of everything that’s going on with sex and censorship and SESTA-FOSTA, you’re finding a lot more people who are supportive of each other, knowing that we’re in it together. Which is really wonderful.
Lithium: Speaking of SESTA-FOSTA, what would you want to see in the legislation regarding sex work?
Lucy: Decriminalization. There have been all these really amazing articles about the difference between decriminalization and legalization, and I agree with a lot of it. When you legalize something—like what a lot of people are seeing with the marijuana industry—it can become very corporate. Suddenly all the big people can afford it, and the small individual growers aren’t able to survive in the industry. I think that’s exactly what would happen if sex work was legalized. If it was done in a different manner, maybe it would be better—I just don’t know what that would look like. But decriminalization would be amazing.
There’s always this argument that “Oh, if it’s decriminalized then pimps and sex traffickers will get away with it!” And I’m like, that doesn’t make sense. Because when you traffic anyone, that’s slavery. Slavery is illegal. You shouldn’t be forcing anyone to do anything. You know? That’s always going to be illegal, so it’s not about that.
Lithium: In the bedroom, do you ever choose to be submissive?
Lucy: I don’t enjoy the submissive role. I’ve explored it, but it really doesn’t do anything for me. Whatever role you want to play—dominant, submissive, switch—you should enjoy it and it should be your choice. I’ve gone through a journey in regards to my relationship with control. I’ve always been a pretty dominant person—I’ve always had a strong personality—but there was a big portion of my life when I felt very out of control and forced to be submissive in an abusive way. It wasn’t a choice—it was put upon me. And I think because there was so much of that going on in the first part of my life, later on in life, I was more attracted to the dominant side. It felt more empowering to take control of my life and my sexuality.
Lithium: There’s so much autonomy in your job, so it’s really interesting that sex workers are constantly seen as being put in a position where they had to get involved instead of it being a radically liberating, fulfilling line of work.
Lucy: Well, I think it’s so complex, right? It’s complex because I’m privileged in the sense that I made a choice to do what I do, but I also had the privilege of living in New York, having another job—I made these choices. And I have a good support background. There are all these little things that speak to the autonomy I had. But there are a lot of people who are doing survival sex work. And there are also a lot of women who started with survival sex work, and when they got to a place where they could support themselves and had more options, they continued to do sex work. It went from survival sex work to sex work by choice.
The bigger problem is that we don’t have a lot of options for immigrant women, women of color, trans individuals, and so sex work sometimes is the best choice from their limited options. Because you make more money. Until we start giving these marginalized communities more choices to survive and prosper, what do you expect?
Lithium: Is sex work your best choice?
Lucy: Yeah. It’s really my calling, this specific type of work. Like, I don’t have to be a sex worker—I don’t have to be a dominatrix. I have a business degree. I ran business operations for a fashion company. But I really love what I do, and so I choose to do it for me. It’s helped me so much, but I’ve also seen how it helps my clients and the women in my community. And there’s always an opportunity for growth in what I’m doing. Like, I’m professionally a dominatrix but I’ve also started doing education work and coaching.
Lithium: You’re thriving.
Lucy: I am.
Interview by Olivia Ferrucci