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Mistress Velvet, the queer intersex dominatrix who made clients read Black feminist theory, has died. She was 33

Josh Milton May 17, 2021
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On the left: Mistress Velvet poses tot he camera wearing purple lipstick. On the right: They pose in a latex onesie.

Mistress Velvet. (Twitter)

Mistress Velvet, a queer intersex dominatrix who made her clients read Black feminist theory during their sessions, has died. They were 33.

A staunch communist who fought bravely for the rights of Black folk, sex workers, trans, and intersex people, Mistress Velvet – who uses she/them pronouns – was long-regarded by her peers as a torchbearer of a more intersectional and empathetic human rights movement.

The master’s graduate was a dom/me, a person who takes the dominant role in the dominant/submissive arrangement.

Her clients, she told HuffPost earlier this year, were mainly cis white men – and each one would have a reading list when meeting her, including venerable Black theorists such as Audre Lorde and Patricia Hill Collins. They’d even have to write their own essays.

“It’s moving from them simply fetishising Black women,” she explained, “to realising: ‘This is a systemic issue I’m contributing to by the virtue of being a white man and being rich. ‘”

To Velvet, humiliating her white, cis male clients all while educating them and challenging their privileged world views was an “emotional sense of reparations”.

Remembered by activists as a “revolutionary African feminist” and “dedicated, lifelong advocate”, her abrupt passing touched off an outpouring of grief in the Chicago area.

Her passing was confirmed on her official Twitter account, followed by more than 11,200 people, on 9 May by “comrades of Mistress Velvet”.

“We grieve with you as we share the news of Mistress Velvet’s passing,” their statement read.

“We feel your love and thank you for your support.”

They did not confirm the cause of Velvet’s death. A GoFundMe has since been made to cover funeral costs as well used to care for her family and cover outstanding debts.

“Mistress Velvet is an icon,” Kara Rodriguez wrote in the crowdfund. “Their life as an African feminist and revolutionary communist brings us closer to their fierce vision of [sex work] and trans liberation.

“Velvet, your presence in this world makes us better. Thank you for showing up unapologetically. We are all at a loss.”

Her spirited activism, from heading a sex workers activist campaign to her work with the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, was a driving force for much of her life as she sought to uplift those around her.

After studying women, gender and African diaspora at university, Velvet went onto become a social worker, sex educator and BDSM practitioner.

In her private dungeon, men explored their identities outside of rigid masculinities. In the back of her mind, Velvet began asking questions – after all, one of her thesis chapters was about her work as a Domme, she recalled.

“What kind of emotional, mental, and social benefits could be cultivated in a space where a black woman is dominant over a white man?” she told HuffPost.

Soon enough, they started demanding that their subs unpack why – and how – they fetishise them. Among the books her subs read: Sisters Outside by Audre Lourde, The Black Body in Ecstasy by Jennifer Nash and The Color of Kink by Ariane Cruz.

“My clients will admit to me that they do not often come in contact with Black women in their work or personal life,” Velvet told academic Kirin Watcher-Grene.

“By making them read Black feminist theory, I’m providing them with a truth that they can then apply to their experiences of privilege and understandings of Black and Brown oppression.”

But as much as she upended power dynamics in her dungeon, her life outside was one of a constant battle to survive.

“When I leave the dungeon, if I don’t drive and I walk the few blocks to the train, I’ll get street harassed,” she said.

“So after an hour of beating someone and heaving this kind of dialogue, I leave that and I’m back in my regular clothes walking and minding my own business and someone street harasses me. I’m like, really?

“It’s so polarising. It’s so jarring. I’m not saying that I need to beat every man that I see, but I also don’t understand why I can’t walk two blocks without being harassed.”

They were an executive director of the Sex Workers Outreach Project USA, a national sex workers advocacy group. “Velvet was a dedicated, lifelong advocate and brilliant activist,” it wrote in a Twitter statement, “and their loss will be felt greatly by those who knew them.”

“Their work spanned reproductive justice, gender-based violence, sex work decriminalisation, prison abolition, anti-imperialist movements and LGBT+ sexual health and relationship education,” it added.

Brave Space Alliance, a Black and trans-led LGBT+ support centre in Chicago, also paid tribute to Velvet. They were one of its “earliest supporters” and served on its first board of directors.

Velvet, it said in a statement, was a “guiding light for many in our collective struggle.

“They were many things to many people and will be sorely missed.”

 

Related topics: dominatrix, intersex, Queer

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