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Bondage, sissy training and water sports are all services you’re likely to see if you click on a professional dominatrix’s website.

You’ll see a photo of the domme herself, too, alongside what her dungeon looks like. Only rarely, though, can you gauge anything about the sonic landscape of a BDSM session you’re to be whipped, humiliated or sploshed in.

Music has long been an important part of the sex industry. ‘Porn groove’ is a genre with its own Wikipedia page, and multiple thinkpieces discussing how much strippers earn according to the tracks the club’s DJ plays appeared last year. But there has been much less written about dominatrixes and music, mostly because pro-dommes are pretty secretive due to the fact that some of the services they offer exist in a legal grey area.

Arguably BDSM entered the mainstream with the arrival of Fifty Shades of Grey. When the eagerly awaited film adaptation dropped, a slew of negative press followed, from accusations of glorifying domestic violence to critics saying the kinky stuff was too tame. Perhaps the best thing about the movie version was the soundtrack, with the song ‘Earned It’ by the Weeknd up for best Original Song at this year’s Oscars. I was curious to find out if some of the other high profile artists featured on 50 Shades, such as Beyoncé, Sia and Ellie Goulding, were representative of the kind of music dommes play in their sessions. The short answer is no, but the issue of soundtracking real life domination is a lot more complicated.

"It’s really like setting the scene for a dinner party. Without music it would be kind of awkward”

“I couldn’t session without music,” one domme from Manchester told me. “For a start, if you didn’t have music on you’d hear sounds from outside, so eliminating that is really important. It’s really like setting the scene for a dinner party. Without music it would be kind of awkward.” Dungeons are usually converted flats in attractive city centre locations. With most dommes renting, there is only so much that can be done with regard to sound insulation. Paying attention to detail has always been an integral part of this particular dominatrix’s performance as she started out as a burlesque dancer, before moving onto pro-domming as a full time career. So whether it’s lighting, makeup, costume or indeed music, she knows they’re all integral elements to her getting it right. “But not all dommes think about it that much,” she adds with a smirk.

Aside from using tracks by the likes of Katy Perry or The Spice Girls for feminisation sessions (where dominatrixes get their slaves to dress up and dance to the domme’s choice of humiliation-inducing pop) I found that classical is the genre of music dommes choose for more hardcore sessions such as corporal punishment and medical play. From the drama to lack of distracting lyrics, there’s ample reason why this genre goes so well with degradation. But one connection perhaps not considered before is the context of when most of this music was produced: 18th century Vienna.

Way before the city became famous for being the origin of psychoanalysis, it was the spot to be for composers trying to make it, attracting the likes of Beethoven and Schubert. That pair’s predecessor was Mozart, whose life answers a lot of questions as to why music from the Classical era fits the dungeon setting so well. Much like today, a musician’s life was far from easy. Struggling with poverty was one thing, and the other, key to this argument, is that composers like these were at the beck and call of their patrons, no better than servants. To serve their mistresses is what men who see dommes want and willingly pay for.

While Beethoven fared somewhat better than Mozart, managing to sell his compositions under the management of his brother, he too struggled with the class system, unable to marry the aristocratic women he fell in love with. While unable to sustain himself financially as a free agent, Mozart died at the age of 35, his mysterious illness no doubt exacerbated by the fact he had to ask permission to even change residence.

Entering into a deeper understanding of your desire is what BDSM is all about, and this can be achieved in different ways. “I sometimes put Nine Inch Nails on if I really want to creep someone out,” one domme from London told me. Another said she prefers opera for the drama – and simply because she likes it. “You have to create an environment where you enjoy the session as well. Otherwise your slave knows and without that connection, things can go downhill.”

"You have to create an environment where you enjoy the session as well. Otherwise your slave knows and without that connection, things can go downhill"

So what about the slaves? How important is music to them when it comes to their sessions with their chosen dommes? I got talking to one man who goes by the name of Alice and books in with the same dominatrix every week. “Mistress usually leaves me in bondage hooked up to electrics with meditation music in the background. It’s definitely the combination of these sensations that takes me to another level of subspace,” he said. Subspace is the term used to describe a trance-like zone where slaves experience the euphoria at the heart of domination. When you consider that bodybags invoke the feeling of being in the womb, you start to understand that a lot of domming is to do with tapping into something a lot more primal, which music plays a key part in evoking.

It would be futile to crown classical music as the definitive soundtrack to the mysterious space that is the pro-domme dungeon as every domme is different and the craft is always evolving, but it’s fair to say that music plays a vital role in creating the best BDSM experience. Music is an art, which unlike literature or film, is experienced through the body – the reason we are compelled to dance when we hear it, why it crosses linguistic, cultural and geographic borders, and perhaps why composers such as Mozart and Beethoven used it as a vehicle to capture their frustration at being at the service of their patrons. In the end it boils down music’s ability to transcend time and place – the emotions it carries can be remixed for new situations. Situations like being wilfully locked in a cage for hours on end for example.