Covid creates mistress shortage at the House of Pain

Tools of the trade at The Kastle, Sydney's legendary house of fantasy and alternative erotica. Photo: Graham Cordery/supplied.

Sydney’s longest operating alternative sex venue, The Kastle, is experiencing a Covid-induced shortage of mistresses and is urgently seeking applicants from BDSM practitioners. John Moyle reports.

Covid-19 has created havoc across the economy – but has also led to employment opportunities in some unusual places.

Sydney’s longest operating alternative sex venue, The Kastle, is experiencing a Covid-induced shortage of mistresses, with owner/operator Mistress Scarlett saying they need to fill five vacancies immediately.

“I am looking for people over 18, which is the legal requirement, but the most important requirement is that they have a genuine interest in BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism), alternative erotica, kink and all types of fantasies that would lead them to commit to the time and energy needed to become good at it,” Mistress Scarlett said.

When the first wave Covid hit, The Kastle, which was classified as a brothel, closed its doors for three months, after which most of its mistresses returned to work and the house resumed business as normal, operating on two shifts per day.

“When the second wave hit, due to the uncertainty, some of the girls left for jobs not affected by Covid restrictions and for whatever reasons, did not return,” Mistress Scarlett said.

“The safe word is mercy,” says a sign inside The Kastle. Photo: Graham Cordery/supplied.

BDSM began to gain mainstream attention in the latter part of the 20th century, but in fact has been part of many subcultures for millennia.

The Cult of Orthia in the 9th century Sparta practised ritual flagellations of young men overseen by priestesses as part of a pre-Olympian religious ritual.

One of the first graphic depictions of BDSM can be found on a fresco from an Etruscan tomb dating to the 5th century BC which shows two males thrashing a woman.

India’s Kama Sutra describes four different levels of BDSM in lovemaking, stressing that these activities should only be performed consensually.

By the eighteenth century BDSM in the West was being categorised both in art and literature, including John Cleland’s book Fanny Hill, first published in 1749.

The skillful art of Japanese rope tying, known as Kinbaku, first came to our attention in the West around the 16th century and is now considered by many to be a high art form in the BDSM scene.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Freud expressed that he was “confounded” by the complexity of BDSM activity – and luckily for us, this was about as far as he got.

Reproduction of a copper engraving of a BDSM scene, circa 1780. Image: Acéphale/Wikimedia Commons/public domain.

“I had an interest in BDSM from late adolescence onwards, and I read about it and just had a liking for all things fetish,” BDSM practitioner Mistress Isabelle said.

Mistress Isabelle has been with The Kastle for 22 years.

“My expertise is in being able to decide what the client wants and being open minded to the fetishes and fantasies and being able to provide those,” Mistress Isabelle said.

“It’s a job like any profession and you need some kind of technical expertise and technical knowledge from which you can do your work.”

Mistress Scarlett describes the typical client, if there is such a person, as “being someone who might not want to do these sorts of things with his girlfriend or partner”.

“They (the partner) may not be into it and do not understand it, and he feels that he can express himself more freely with someone outside of a close relationship because it is not clubbed by the relationship but purely about him expressing his sexual desires with someone who is happy to accommodate that.”

“It is impossible to categorise the clients in terms of age or colour, with a lot more Asian and Middle Eastern men now showing up,” Mistress Scarlett added.

One criticism often thrust at the profession is that the women are being exploited by their male clients, an accusation Mistress Isabelle wholeheartedly refutes.

“People who say our work is about men exploiting women are putting a political stance on us and this is not warranted,” Mistress Isabelle said.

“It is a service industry and women need to go into it open minded.

“We are a female managed and female staffed business, and we have a choice of whom we wish to see or not, and what activities we may or may not want to do.”

Mistress Isabelle adds that “It is up to the individual to find their boundaries and some people don’t have boundaries regardless of the job they are doing or how they live”.

It is not only the clients that require training – like any job, so do the incoming mistresses.

“There is on the job training, which I do a lot of at the moment, and also the other mistresses will take the newcomers and train them,” Mistress Scarlett said.

“We also have a vast library of books and videos and there is a lot of material available online.”

A themed room inside The Kastle, in Chippendale, inner Sydney. Photo: The Kastle/Facebook.  

Located in inner city Chippendale, The Kastle was established in 1985 and has continued to operate in the same space.

Normally reticent with the press, in recent times the venue was the subject of much speculation when troubled ex-Silverchair frontman Daniel Johns was incorrectly named and photographed for using its services.

He did not.

Johns later received an apology from the Daily Mail and $470,000 damages from News Corp’s Sunday Telegraph.

Mistress Scarlett suggests that anyone interested in applying for a position should contact her at The Kastle.

“A lot of time and energy goes into the learning and investing in the look and learning to do it properly, and if you do it properly, you will be successful at it,” Mistress Scarlett said.

John Moyle is the associate editor and special writer for the Sydney Sentinel.

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