Pictured above: Mistress O in her clinic.
In her Austin, Texas, dungeon, Mistress O used to dress as a medical professional and dominate her paying “patients.” Now she spends her time sewing masks for real-life medical professionals.
As governors and hospitals scramble to procure masks and gloves during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, surprising sectors around the world have been contributing supplies. Not only have veterinary hospitals given personal protective equipment (PPE), they’ve also offered up ventilators; meanwhile, medical drama series like Grey’s Anatomy have donated their medical stock. And, of course, Mistress O is one of many medical fetishists stepping up and contributing their supply of increasingly precious PPE to local health care communities. While she already gave away the masks, goggles, and face shields from her own stock, she tells NewNowNext that she's also sewing 10-20 reusable masks each day for nurses and mutual aid workers.
Mistress O (L) and her clinic (R).
Medical fetish supply website MedFetUK made headlines in late March, when they announced on Twitter that they had donated their entire stock of disposable scrubs to a hospital in southern England. In an indication of the dire PPE shortage, MedFetUK said that they were contacted by several procurement representatives around the U.K. looking to source basic supplies.
“When we, a tiny company set up to serve a small section of the kink community, find ourselves being sought out as a last-resort supplier to our National Health Service in a time of crisis, something is seriously wrong,” they tweeted.
Medical fetishism, also called “medfet,” might first call to mind the “sexy nurse” trope, but it’s much more expansive. Often linked to BDSM, medical play can include doctor-patient roleplay in which temperature-taking, probing, and mock surgery/anesthesia, among other "procedures," are performed.
Since most people won’t be able to engage their fetish due to social distancing, the materials they have at home—called “fet kits”—would be sitting idle. JW House, a medfet/BDSM roleplayer, called on the community to donate, saying, “We, as medical fetishists, can inject good into this world, and do so anonymously. This is not the time to waste gloves, masks, and other supplies for pretty little Instagram photoshoots.” Dominatrix and kink educator Mistress Kye suggested the same, noting that dungeons could give disinfectant wipes, in addition to PPE.
Queer archivist Joshua Burford tells NewNowNext that he dropped off every box of masks, gloves, and scrubs he had in his personal supply to UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. When the person collecting the boxes at the supply drive commented on the sheer number of supplies, he told her it was his entire fet kit. She replied, “It takes a village.”
Sub Rosa, a kink and BDSM play and education space in Portland, Oregon, also donated nearly all of its gloves, disposable masks, and disinfecting wipes to local medics in March. Co-owner Natasha Strange tells NewNowNext that, despite being a legal tax-paying business, she has not been able to get government relief. Since the federal government is not allowing any business of a “prurient sexual nature” to apply for an emergency small business loan or receive bailout funds, Natasha is applying for local grants without the stipulation. Sub Rosa is selling gift certificates, “which will hopefully get us through if the government won't support us—with the tax dollars we gave them.” Despite the difficulty of her business abruptly losing “90% of our income,” Natasha feels like the donation was “the right thing to do.”
For professional dungeon operators like Mistress O, the donations are a serious financial loss, but well worth it given the troubling situation. Though Mistress O says she's "barely getting by,” she still made the donations “because of the deep and troubling failure of the government to adequately protect our front line workers."
"I am horrified by the stories of my friends working in health care," she adds. "The lack of protection is criminal.”
Not all fetish play materials are suitable for donation, however. One self-described amateur in Brazil tells NewNowNext she had not considered making a donation because her supplies were mostly reusable rubber, vinyl, and latex equipment—not medical grade. Other kinksters are keeping their supply to use for personal grocery shopping instead of sexual play.
Hong Kong-based Mistress Euryale says she didn’t have any to give since her on-hand stock was small and “the medical grade of the masks required in a hospital is usually at the highest level.” She also noted that the brief shortage in Hong Kong was nowhere near the scale and severity that the United States and Europe are currently experiencing.
Mistress Euryale also tells NewNowNext that while she's touched by the “generous gesture” of the medical fetish community, supplying PPE should not have fallen to them because of “the lack of anticipation and resources of some governments.” She echoes a sentiment shared by many during this time: “I am a bit bitter when I see that a few citizens carry this responsibility that is a matter of life or death.”
Whether or not the medical fetish community should have ever been put in this position, their contributions are now aiding brave medical professionals operating in a situation far from fantasy. As MedFetUK tweeted: “We are not heroes and we don't deserve any special kudos. We just did the obvious and only right thing to do. The real heroes are the [National Health Service] staff at every level who are on the front line of this fight.”