Everybody’s into someone or something. Unless you’re asexual because we don’t do ace erasure around here.
The thing is, whether they realize it or not, most people like adding an element of adventure to their escapades in the bedroom (or outside it, if that’s your style). For some, a kink is an acquired taste. For others, it’s something they’ve always been into.
Fetishes can range from having the most obvious evolutionary advantages, like a breeding fetish, to stranger kinks like offering people you found on Twitter money to see their feet.
Yes, that’s real. Yes, I’ve gotten DMs asking for a photo of my feet in heels after I tweeted a picture of them in ankle boots.
Talk about awkward.
The good news is I’m no longer fazed by people with foot fetishes. The bad news is that’s because the internet has ruined me.
Among the many weird kinks floating around in the sweaty, writhing mass that is the internet, there’s one that’s been cropping up on Twitter throughout the pandemic lockdowns: financial domination.
Morbidly curious and eager to destroy what little semblance of innocence I have left, I started looking into the strange world of femdoms and their “paypigs.” The best part? It turns out there is a scientific basis, and psychological disturbances, behind most kinks.
What is Financial Domination?
No, financial domination does not involve Jeff Bezos showing up at your local farmer’s market to announce that he has a new Amazon grocery store that can undercut them all. Financial domination, sometimes called “findom,” is a little more personal.
To practitioners of findom, financial domination is more than a kink. It’s a fetish lifestyle that divides its participants into two roles, the submissive and the dominant. Unlike Fifty Shades of Grey, the main attraction of findom’s dominance and submission dynamic isn’t necessarily the sex itself.
In fact, a good portion of findom doesn’t involve sex or sex-related acts. The financial control that the dominant or “dom” enforces on the submissive or “sub” is what members of the findom community are truly after. To them, there is real pleasure to be drawn from receiving money (honestly, same) and giving money.
Well, giving is a mild way to put it. While financial domination is entirely consensual, a key component of what makes findom so titillating to both doms and subs is the humiliation and degradation that comes with being told to give the dominant money.
This degradation aspect to findom is why men — because it’s mostly men who are the subs in findom — are called “paypigs” or “human ATMs” by their doms. The doms themselves are almost exclusively women whom the paypigs call “goddesses.” Gives you a clear idea of the power dynamics in findom, huh?
Imagine if Fifty Shades wasn’t about a mousy girl being dominated by a high-power CEO guy but instead featured Ana as a shy woman who’s actually a findom goddess that later introduces Christian Grey to the world of findom. We might have seen him transferring his entire bank balance to Ana instead of whatever those awkward (and misleading) BDSM scenes were. It sounds more interesting and unique already.
I know you might be thinking there’s nothing remotely sexy about being used for your money. Fair enough. But remember that kinks and fetishes are very subjective and what’s isn’t hot to you might be another person’s sexual interest. Just don’t yuck other people’s yum.
Other than initial revulsion, a part of the awkwardness we typically feel about BDSM, or kink in general, for that matter, is because it doesn’t make sense why a kink would be attractive to someone.
Why Are People Even Into This? The Science of Kink
The main difference between kink and a felony charge is consent. This is especially true for more controversial kinks like rape fantasies, which are centered on fictional non-consensual sex, and age play, where one party pretends to be younger than they are, often roleplaying as a minor.
According to Samuel Hughes, a psychological researcher who works at the University of California, Santa Cruz, kink is the result of a complex interaction between our self-concept, personality, and our social environment. Hughes surveyed 292 people from FetLife, a site that calls itself “Facebook, but run by kinksters like you and me,” to learn how they developed their kinks.
He then took these survey answers and examined them through rigorous thematic analysis to find common themes and elements that were shared across the subjective experiences and memories of the study’s 292 participants.
Before we go any further, let’s clear up our terminology. Hughes’ study divides kink and fetish into two different umbrellas and does not use the terms interchangeably as people often do in common conversations about sexual intimacy.
To Hughes, a kink is a term that refers to “consensual, non-traditional sexual, sensual, and intimate behaviors.” Kink is more directly sexual and features the biggest stars of alternative sexuality like domination, submission, and different forms of penetrative sex.
On the other side of the scene is a fetish. Fetish is a narrower category that falls within kinks but isn’t as overtly sexual as kink. Usually, there’s an interest in body parts that don’t traditionally have a sexual connotation, like the Twitter stranger who asked to see my feet, or specific materials seen in shibari, an ancient Japanese art that involves an almost sculptural form of bondage.
The Five Stages of Developing a Kink
In his research, Hughes discovered five phases of kink identity development which he patterned after Cass’ model of coming out, one of the first studies to treat members of LGBTQ+ community as actual living breathing people who are forced to adapt to a homophobic society instead of writing them off as mentally ill. Go figure.
Early Encounters with a Kink
Many of the people interviewed began to experience attraction to kink and fetish-related activities before they were even 10 years old. It often doesn’t start off as a sexually arousing activity or interest which explains why not everyone who develops a kink is traumatized or has a history of sexual or physical abuse.
This is going to sound even stranger, but a kid who’s into playing doctor with the other neighborhood children can either grow up a doctor, grow up to have a kink that involves them playing the doctor role, or being examined by a doctor, or both. Good for them.
Some examples he identified from the survey were kinks about, say, being handcuffed that started out from playing cops and robbers with other kids. Other children might see tightly dressed superheroes and later develop a fetish for latex and leather fetish gear.
Exploration with Self
This stage typically starts as early as five or as late as 14 years old. As you can probably tell, the “Exploration with Self” stage is when kink and fetish-loving individuals begin to realize that being handcuffed with fake plastic cuffs by a schoolmate on a playground is sexually arousing to them.
Kids in this stage of exploring their sexual interests will start looking for movies, books, and other media that are related to their kink. The kid who likes being the robber in cops and robbers just a bit too much might begin reading erotic fiction and you can bet every dynamic you can imagine is already an erotica book somewhere on the planet.
Even if they didn’t have access to these kinds of sexual material, the participants in the survey reported that they resigned themselves to good ole fantasizing. With sexual daydreams came autoerotic exploration. That’s fancy talk for masturbating just so I can keep writing this with a straight face. It can also extend to exploring material sensations like figuring out that feathers are kind of sexy to them when it’s touching skin.
If you’re cringing at all of this kink and fetish talk, you’ll understand why this stage exists. It usually takes place between the ages of 11 and 14 years old when tweens and teens start to be more aware of their social environment.
Similar to LGBTQ+ folks, young kinksters develop a sense of shame over what turns them on. They’re aware that their fetishes or kinks aren’t among the modes of sexual play that are commonly depicted in media and that the stuff that gets them going is often seen as depraved, icky, or downright immoral.
They begin to wonder if something is wrong with them. People are social animals and we tend to use each other as a reference point to confirm the “objective” reality of our experiences. That’s part of why you get culture-bound syndromes, mental illnesses that exist only in specific cultures.
As they become more aware and afraid of the stigma that surrounds kinks and fetishes, teenagers begin looking for other people who share their interests and experiences.
Finding Other People Who Have the Same Kink or Fetish
Being social animals, we are driven to identify ourselves with some sort of group or label that helps us define our experiences. Definition, after all, creates the path to understanding.
It’s easier to research a sexual interest and find out whether it’s okay to feel that way if you have a name for what your researching. It often occurs together with the previous stage and is the reason why sites like FetLife and the financial domination subreddit exist in the first place.
Being able to find a community full of people who are also interested in the same kinks and fetishes allows kink-interested individuals to develop resilience against the stigma that surrounds these sexual interests.
It establishes a sense of kinship (or kinkship?) with other people. As they grow older, these freshly minted adults start attending kink-related clubs, events, and yes, even informational conferences. Turns out the kink community is very serious about safe and consensual sex.
Exploration with Others
Finding a community isn’t just about finding people to identify with, it also means finding people to get frisky with. This stage is a little more varied when it comes to age range since the question of when people start to be sexually active can vary from their mid-teens to their late twenties and sometimes, even older or younger than this range.
Once they’re part of a wider kink community, it’s easier for people to learn more about the safe ways to practice their kink from older, more experienced members. This makes it safe to enjoy their kinks and fetishes with other people in the community.
Many of the respondents of the study that Samuel Hughes conducted reported that they only really started to feel like members of a wider kink community after they engaged in kinky behavior with other people.
The Economic Power Exchange of Findom
As sexy and sexually liberating as this all sounds, it’s difficult to deny that there’s some serious money involved in a fetish that’s literally called “financial domination”.
Cleo Tantra, a wonderfully punny named financial dominatrix who operates on findoms.com, shared her thoughts on findom with the folks over at VICE.
Cleo and other financial dominatrixes agree that there’s more to findom than just making men cough up their money. Sure, it’s the main feature of findom, but according to them, it’s a dominatrix’s job to make sure the findom is fun and safe for their human ATMs.
For Cleo, the “Hi! I’m pretty. Give me money.” approach is more sugar baby than it is findom. A sugar baby is essentially a kept person and there are more expectations for a sugar baby to have sexual contact with the sugar daddy or sugar mommy. Compared to financial domination, which often doesn’t even involve sex, sugaring is heavily tilted towards the person doing the financing.
On the other hand, a dominatrix dominates the person who gives them money. Goddesses make demands on their paypigs, sugar babies ask for an allowance. Whether that’s the same is up to you.