Arts & Culture

Max Mosley Thought He Was Paying for Discretion, Not Dehumanization

Henri is a Jew. He operates a semi-private BDSM bar in Berlin. The first night we met, he wept into my camera. We drank shots of Campari and I promised to keep rolling as he kept talking. The bar was … Read More

By / April 11, 2008

Henri is a Jew. He operates a semi-private BDSM bar in Berlin. The first night we met, he wept into my camera. We drank shots of Campari and I promised to keep rolling as he kept talking. The bar was loud, had about a half dozen other kinky people in it flirting and drinking, and some details of our conversation were lost in the classic rock soundtrack. Henri told me, "My parents took part in a mapping project. This was right before the war. They knew what it was for. How else were they going to get the money to get me out of Germany? When I came back, in the '60s, no one in the community would speak to me. The perverts were the only people who took me in."

He told me that he doesn't believe there's such a thing as a really dominant woman.

"They're only acting what men tell them to, even bossing the men around."

Would apparent Nazi roleplay fetishist and (soon to be former) Formula One mogul Max Mosley agree? Would he also tease me, the (almost former) professional fetish mistress, the fair-skinned, blue-eyed, passably WASPy blonde who can carry off a whip? Would he want to hire me, too? I very rarely whipped anyone, and of all my clients, only one ever asked me to play the "cold German type"—nervous and novice submissive client code for "Nazi She Wolf."

That client's name was David, and he used to make appointments with me from a number identified on my phone as the Jewish Community Center. I kept the rosary he brought me to wear when we played. He was never one to step back from his fantasy, to dissect it. The intellectual part of me would have wanted to ask him about the death wish implicit in his desire for me to play the role of a calculating gentile woman seeking to overthrow the JCC. To ask that wasn't my job. I would never demand he let me hold his hand as he reckoned with genocide just to make myself feel less complicit—and as anti-Semitic roleplay goes, the JCC seemed the quaintest target he could choose. David is a submissive, a bottom.  Henri is a top, which means he gets off on being in erotic control.  But Mosely appears to be a switch. Outside of my professional persona, I'm a switch, too. Switches confuse our myths about SM. When someone claims as a part of their sexual identity that they like to be mostly in charge, or mostly overtaken, we understand that. It already fits a neat power law around intercourse, where one person, even in the vanilla sense, is doing the other.

To watch Mosely go from victim to perpetrator in the course of this SM scene (and we can, thanks to the leaked lo-fi video still online) makes no easy sense, especially to a viewer unfamiliar with the cues of sensual power play. There's something in his ability to take both roles that only throws the theatre of historic cruelty in our face.

I wish I could have introduced Henri to one of my lovers, the only man who exclusively topped me. His father was black, and committed suicide after never being able to really make sense of his life after the Vietnam War. His mother's parents are Polish Jews, Holocaust survivors who came to America to start over. My lover told me he knew a little German because, on a long car trip as a kid, his grandfather had taught him a work song. It turned my lover on to sing this. When he gave me an SS pin to wear to a sex party with him, I didn't know whether to thank him for confiding in me about the fantasy, didn't know if I could do right by it without breaking down utterly. We parted ways before I ever found the words for where the sex we had—rough, passionate, brutal, raw, connected to something bigger than we could bear as just two people—took us. Maybe that's why he wanted to see me gangbanged in a uniform. It wasn't only to see me used and on display. The act and what it signified just needed that many witnesses.

If Max Mosely had that kind of trusted access to people who understood and accepted his fantasies, we'd have no reason—other than those demonstrated by history—to call him monstrous. Whatever demons he had to face, be they his family's fascist past or the annoyance of an afternoon hard-on, he made the choice to hire players and a beige-carpeted "torture chamber" in which to enact his sex games. More power to the man for trying to carry out this encounter with an effort towards minimizing real harm to anyone. Mosley thought he was paying for discretion, not dehumanization. Of course, how well or not he treated the sex workers who entertained him isn't the story of dehumanization anyone is interested in telling—maybe because it's clear he was very fair with them. If there's one thing we can fault him for, it's imagining that his "transgressions" weren't a story worth telling anyone but the women he paid to enact them with.

Related: Howard Jacobson on the British Race Car Nazi Sex Scandal

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