Melissa Febos--Former Dominatrix--Talks Food Fetishes, Sexy Vegetarianism, and the Allure of a Tube of Cookie Dough
Melissa Febos knows from sexy vegetarians.
Melissa Febos hosts the Mixer reading series at the Cakeshop on the Lower East Side, a delightfully low-key and hip night of live music and literature where one might see Jonathan Lethem read his latest work or witness Pulitzer-prize winning poet Paul Muldoon wail on a guitar. She also teaches literature at SUNY Purchase and the Gotham
Writer's Workshop. But before all that she led a fascinating life as a midtown dominatrix. Her new book, Whip Smart (Thomas Dunne Books, $24.99), takes a look back on that time in her life with considerable wit and poignancy. We talked to Melissa, a lifelong vegetarian, about everything from food fetishes to where to get a decent meat-free meal.
You must have encountered some food fetishes in your time as a dominatrix. Care to share any stories?
Well, I had a lot of clients who wanted to be caught eating junk food, and then punished for it.
What do you think is at the root of food fetishes?
The same thing that is at the root of all fetishes--the object becomes a vessel for emotions, obsessions, escape. Often it's a symbol, of an experience, a trauma, an epiphany. Usually, I think people are trying to answer some implicit question. At least that's what I'm trying to do when I revisit something over and over.
What's the most common food fetish you and your co-workers saw?
Do golden shower cocktails count as a "food" fetish?
Is your newfound fame bringing you any odd or unwanted attention?
Um, yes. To say the least. I've been overwhelmed, mostly, with wonderful, supportive, encouragement--from the people who know me, and from lots of strangers. But as is the case with anyone writing about a provocative subject, I have become a lightening rod of some sort. Also, when writing about a marginalized, or little known experience, I think it's easy for people to assume that you are speaking for everyone who has had that experience. I only speak for my own experience, and it's bound to be very different from many others. And they all want to tell about how I've misrepresented their experience. I've also gotten plenty of offers from aspiring slaves. Much appreciated, but no thanks.
Quick: Make up a new food fetish!
Sriracha in Sabra hummus, with veggies, rice crackers, and anything else dippable. Oh, wait. I didn't make that up. I've had that fetish for years.
You have been a vegetarian your whole life. So tell me, why do you think vegetarians are sexy?
I have. And I think vegetarians are sexy. We smell better, for one. And vegetarianism is often a sign of compassion, and that is a sexy characteristic in anyone.