Five years ago, my life felt like a disaster. I was a holistic practitioner, but I lost my award-winning wellness practice in the wake of the Great Recession. I was 55, with no prospects, no financial savings, no family members who would help, and friends who seemed to vanish into thin air. I found myself on my own with no hope in sight.

Then one day, out of the blue, came the idea to become a professional dominatrix. At first, the idea was nothing more than an off-hand joke between me and a friend — one of those, “Well, you could always become a circus clown or a bounty hunter” kind of ideas. Slowly, though, the idea took root in my mind.

At the time, I was studying female sexual empowerment and researching the transmutation of sexual energy. As a student of empowerment and sexuality, I knew that becoming a dominatrix would truly teach me to “walk the walk” of authentic, non-judgmental sexuality, but no matter how hard I tried to talk myself into it, there was nothing in my reality telling me that it was possible. After all, who would hire a 55-year-old woman with no experience whatsoever as a dominatrix? I also grappled daily with many negative social influences that cast aside expressive sexuality — especially BDSM — as taboo and wrong.

At the same time, though, I suspected that the experience would empower me as a woman. Deep down, I somehow understood that it would set me free from my own limited perceptions of how women should behave.

After weeks of using my most impressive powers of persuasion, I finally convinced a New York City BDSM dungeon to grant me an in-person interview.

I walked through the entrance door on that stormy evening and found myself at the top of a battered, dimly lit staircase that appeared to lead down into the basement. Nervous and suddenly unsure, I forced myself to walk down into the gloom. After all this cloak-and-dagger stuff, I expected to hear screaming and chain rattling at the bottom — I was in a dungeon, after all. Instead, I was surprised to be greeted by an attractive, middle-aged woman.

She smiled, “Who are you?”

“Sandra LaMorgese. I’m here for a job interview.”

The woman remembered me from my emails and welcomed me into the parlor to fill out the job application. It was pretty basic. In the section asking about my special interests and abilities, I wrote “yoga, outgoing personality, and excellent communication skills.” I may as well have written “virgin.”

I handed the woman my completed application. She leaned back into her very high chair, lit up a cigarette, and began to read it over.

“Do you have any experience at all?” she asked.

“I’ve been a lifestyle dominatrix for two years,” I lied.

The woman flicked the ash off her cigarette. “This is not as glamorous as it might seem, you know. You’ll have to work very hard. You can’t just get by with a pretty face.”

I nodded, and she continued…

There is absolutely no sex in any form here. No blow jobs, no hand jobs, no foot jobs. If we get busted because you had sex with a client, you get charged with a misdemeanor, and I get charged with a felony for making the appointment for you. That makes me your pimp, and I go to jail. Never ever show your ass or tits to a client. If they are lucky, you may allow them to lick the bottom of your shoes.

I nodded again, unsure of how to reply. Abruptly, I blurted out, “I don’t hate men.”

As she got up from her desk to answer a call from another room, she said, “You might, after this job.”

Alone in the waiting room, I got a chance to look around. To my left was a wall covered with long coils of rope hanging from hooks, black leather hoods and masks, corporate beating canes, shackles, and other tools whose function I couldn’t even begin to contemplate. I found it all fascinating.

The woman returned and told me the job was mine with no further explanation. I wasn’t about to question her decision. I just squeezed out a “Thank you” as she motioned for me to follow her down a dark hallway for a tour of The Dungeon’s elaborate fetish rooms and torture chambers.

The first room we entered had an oriental theme. All the high walls were painted red, and there were mirrors everywhere. There was an elaborate throne, grand pillars, several large wall hooks, and a human suspension bar.

Behind door number two was a torture chamber — complete with a huge wooden rack (the Middle Ages kind, with a wooden wheel to stretch the body out painfully and leather ties to hold the person down while the torturer used a cat o’ nine tails across his back.)

The strict disciplinarian room was next. The décor was sparse: A desk, a bare chalkboard, and a dunce cap on a stool in the corner. I could only imagine what kind of lessons I would be teaching in this classroom.

Then, back in the hallway, the woman guided me down into a secluded area where the last two rooms were located.

One room was clearly for dress up. On one table there were a handful of mannequin heads with long blond, brunette, and auburn wigs and a 50’s style make-up dresser. A tall plastic set of drawers filled with ladies’ panties, bras, and stockings stood next to a black leather sofa.

In the last room, I felt like I had walked into Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory: Two examining tables, suspension bars, steel intravenous poles, glass physician’s cabinets filled with scary-looking medical implements, and an electric chair.

After my tour of The Dungeon rooms, I was completely blown away — and so eager to get started. I had two days to shop for my new fetish work clothes and decide on my new Mistress name, and on my first day, I showed up prepared and eager.

I walked down those steep, scary stairs every day for the next year, and it changed my life forever.

Sandra LaMorgese Ph.D. is an expert in reinvention, authentic living, and bridging the gap between sexuality and a lifestyle that focuses on holistic health of the mind, body and spirit. She is the author of Switch: Time for a Change, a memoir of her journey from holistic practitioner to professional dominatrix at 55-years-old after losing everything, and her passion and purpose is to empower others towards healthy authentic living. To learn more about Sandra visit www.sandralamorgese.com.