The day I spoke with Victoria Silver, she had just returned from vacation in Los Angeles and was in the middle of moving to a more spacious New York apartment. The 24-year-old logged on to our video call surrounded by half-packed boxes. “I will have in-unit laundry, a washer, a dryer, a dishwasher, and a deck!” she explained. Her new rent? About $4,000.
Coincidentally, $4,000 was roughly the amount she earned on her birthday this year as tributes and gifts rolled in. “It’s the best day of the year for findoms,” she said. “Everybody comes out of the woodwork — your former submissives, your current submissives, they all want to make your day. It’s impossible to have a bad birthday if you’re a financial dominatrix.”
Everyone thinks they can do Silver’s job. She has seen plenty of people claim that they, too, can be mean to men for money. “People think it’s easy,” she told me. “I’ve seen a million girls log on and start an account and be gone within a week.”
To hear Silver describe her work, it sounds quite simple. “Financial domination,” she explained, “is the act of controlling a submissive via their finances.” This can involve humiliating the submissive, but not necessarily. The point is the control, which can take on different forms, depending on the submissive and how much they’re willing to spend: “It can encompass a lot of things like heavy-handed drains, which is when somebody spends a lot of money in a short time period, or behavior modification in a long-term relationship,” she said. Ongoing relationships can exist for months or even years.
But just because it sounds simple doesn’t mean that it is. On any given day, Silver is in regular communication with a core group of seven submissives who look to her for attention, advice, commands, and updates on her day-to-day life. Earlier this year, Silver had her best earning month. “In January, I made $34,000.” At worst? “If I make anything under $10,000 in a month, I consider it vastly disappointing,” she said. On Twitter, she told her followers that $1,000 per day has become “standard” for her and shared screenshots as proof.
Financial domination has seen a marked increase in discourse in the last two years, thanks in part to the explosion of online sex work during the pandemic through platforms like OnlyFans. Then there’s the increase in pop culture representation: Findom storylines show up on Netflix’s Bonding and HBO’s Euphoria, while on TikTok and Instagram, findoms — predominantly young women — pity people who still “talk to men for free.”
But with all the rise in attention on findom, Silver hears all kinds of misconceptions about her job. “People think it’s this outlet for revenge,” she said. “In reality, it’s this beautiful, consensual, celebratory dynamic.” For her, the joy is in total domination. “One thing I do with a lot of my long-term clients is: I push them to get raises, I push them to apply to better jobs. Because the more money they make, the more money they can allocate to me, and the richer I get.”
Silver has been in financial domination for a little over three years, but that wasn’t always the plan. “I’ve always been into BDSM and femdom in my personal life. And I was seeing somebody at the time who also saw professional dominatrices,” she told me. “And he said, ‘Wow, you’re really good at this, have you ever considered charging?’” She said being a dominant piqued her interest, but she knew that being a professional would require a lot of training. She has type 1 diabetes, and she also needed money, fast; insulin was expensive, and she was in college.
So when she heard about findom, she thought it would be a good step toward being a professional dominant. “My first day, I made a Twitter account, I made a FetLife account, and within hours I made $300. That is not a common experience. I just happened to be really good at it. I understood male psychology right out of the gate.”
I asked Silver what makes her so good at findom. “There is a certain element to sex work where if you’re white and skinny and blonde, you’re going to make money, and I am none of those things,” she said. Silver is Black, Jewish, and Native American. She said she’s relied on her personality to be successful instead. “I really stand out for being authentic,” she said. “I practice under my real name.”
For her day job, Silver is an evening editor with the Daily Dot. “They’re completely aware. During the interview process, I let them know I was a sex worker and that wouldn’t be changing,” she told me. “I’ve been working in journalism since I was 18, I’ve done press stuff at the United Nations, I’m an opinion writer, I’m an editor,” she added, “but at the end of the day, the salaries in journalism are not very high.”
By contrast, her sex work career has given her the financial freedom she’s been looking for. “I’ve gone from $300 a day to my highest-earning day being around $11,000,” she said. “I found a lot of success in this industry, and I’m using it to pay for grad school, I’m using it to pay for an apartment. And it’s just been a very, very liberating experience.”
Ethan, a 21-year-old business student who lives in Yorkshire, England, has been a financial submissive for about three years, and for the last two he has been one of Silver’s most loyal submissives.
“The main thing that people should understand is that it’s not just the humiliation or the ‘Pay, loser’ type of tweet. It’s normal everyday stuff,” explained Ethan, who asked that I withhold his last name to protect his privacy. “The power dynamic is the main thing.”
He first became interested in financial submission while browsing online. “First, I found out that I like submitting for my general lifestyle,” Ethan told me. “Then I found pages on Twitter that were from dominatrices, and quite a few of them were findoms. So I tried it and realized I quite like the power exchange of it, and I just started from there.”
Until recently, Ethan was unemployed, and Silver put him on pause and banned him from sending tributes. He has a rare condition called stiff-person syndrome that makes it difficult to stand for extended periods of time. But just a few weeks ago, he got a new job, and now Ethan is happy to be able to send money to Silver again.
He is not one of the financial heavyweights when it comes to making contributions. “She has people who send $10,000 in a day, but every relationship is different,” he told me. “I send smaller amounts — simpler things like buying coffee and stuff. You don’t expect anything back, it’s just about doing something nice.” He estimated about 10% of his current earnings goes to Silver. “That’s because I’ve got quite a low income. Because she knows that the other 90% I need to live my life,” he said. “She knows she can comfortably take that 10% and not have to worry about me struggling.”
Despite the fact that he doesn’t send hundreds of dollars a day to Silver, he feels his contributions are valued. “Any actual financial dominatrix will understand that it’s not so much about the money and how big a send,” he said. “It’s about the sacrifice. A dominatrix like Victoria will appreciate a $50 send from someone who makes a few hundred in a week more than, say, a $500 send from someone that’s earning 10 times that in a week.”
As a reward for his loyalty, Ethan is in a group chat with Silver’s most dedicated submissives. Every member of the group DM calls Silver something different. “I call her ‘mommy,’” he said. “Some call her ‘goddess.’” The Twitter group DM is “just like any friend group chat,” he said, and it makes it easier for Silver to reach all of them. “If she wants something done, or it might be that she wants a meal covered, then a few of us send for that. It’s just a big group of friends. and the thing we all have in common is Silver.” (Silver’s boyfriend, who is one of her submissives, though not a financial submissive, is also in the chat.)
Before Silver, Ethan struggled to find a findom he clicked with. “It’s just like any other relationship in that some don’t work out because you don’t want the same thing out of it.” The others, he said, were “not the right domination style” for him.
Ethan seems overcome with gratitude when he talks about how Silver has changed his life. “She’s made things easier to sometimes accept, like some disability limitations I might have,” he told me. “She did it with things like accepting that I can’t send as much as I want. She’s also been really helpful with my university studies. She’s drafted plans for essays, like ‘this is what you need to include.’”
Being a submissive to Silver has helped him apply himself at school. “She pushes you to push yourself to achieve that goal, not only for yourself but for her,” he said. “She once jokingly said she sees me as a long-term investment.”
For Mistress Kitty, a 24-year-old living in Detroit, being a financial dominant is only a part of her revenue stream — she also maintains an OnlyFans page with a large following. All in all, it adds up to a pretty good haul. “I would say anything between $15,000 to $30,000 a month,” she estimated.
Kitty, who asked that I use her professional name for privacy reasons, started doing sex work about four years ago, and has been a professional dominant for a year or so. She estimated that findom brings in about a quarter of her income, from about 20 financial submissives. Kitty told me that financial submissives are not as frequent to come by as other kinds. “It’s a very rare agreement,” she said. “Because it is such a deep trust and commitment. And some of them are looking for different aspects of losing control.”
Like Silver, Kitty is frustrated with the perception that her work is easy. “People think it’s just ‘send me money’ and ‘drain your wallet,’ but the work is all mental. They don’t know the level in which your mind is turned on for 24 hours, just constantly thinking of ways to keep people engaged,” she said. “To make your clients feel like they have something to come back for. And it’s a lot of work to create that kind of excitement because this is a very private aspect of people’s lives, their income.”
Sure, there are the clients who want her to demand money and gifts, and they stand ready to comply. But Kitty said she also has clients who hand over the whole keys to their financial lives. “These are very few, but they are interested in losing complete control of their finances. It’s very exhilarating for them,” she said. “They want to be budgeted for. I will literally budget for them and create a routine for them.”
It’s a lot of responsibility. Kitty said her first-ever financial submissive was in the Army. “When he was able to have time out of the Army, back to his normal home life for a few weeks, he would like me to schedule and budget things for him to do during that time.” That means the minutiae of his budget but also his schedule were controlled by Kitty. “And that’s what I think a lot of the beauty in this is. It’s not just them draining their bank accounts — which, yes, that’s a part of it — but there are aspects of: How can I help you be better and do better?”
Because the stakes can be so high, Kitty said, she doesn’t just take on any client as a submissive. If someone wants to splurge for a day, sure. But anything more involved, she will begin a vetting process that can take hours of conversation. “If someone is sending me money right off the bat, that’s a good sign because it shows they’re committed,” she explained. “But then I need at least a ground-level understanding of who the person is, what they’re looking for, what are their limits, what excites them, what scares them.”
Kitty told me that her submissives aren’t always sending money. Some like to save and wait for a full-day session where they’re “absolutely drained.” She likened the feeling to visiting an amusement park. “You know you’re going in for a big amount of spending, but you’re excited for it,” she said. “You don’t go to Disneyland and say, ‘I have $50 to spend and that’s it.’ They’re feeling that euphoria all day.”
But a day at an amusement park can also be deeply overwhelming. This is why the clients come to Kitty, she theorized. “They indulge in it as a treat, like, ‘I’m not going to worry about where it’s going as long as I have a good dominatrix in control who is not going to take it too far,’” she told me.
Has she thought about what’s “too far?” “Taking it to a place where they couldn’t pay their bills. That would be taking it to a level I don’t agree with morally,” she said. Otherwise, there are no limits. “As long as they’re paying their bills and feeding themselves and taking care of their health.”
Is the financial domination lifestyle dangerous? It’s hard to say; it’s challenging to get those who have left it to talk about why. Many submissives I reached out to declined to talk, citing the stigma around findom. The findom recovery subreddit has just 15 members, but its few posts are difficult to read. One post from a user who has deleted their account reads, “I have this one person who seems to always know when I am at my lowest point.” This person went on to write, “When I woke up this morning they hit me up and I couldn’t stop myself. They got $300 and pushed for more. But I am already in my overdraft.” Other shared stories of losing control and having no guardrails.
It’s true that fake financial domination is widespread — Twitter and Instagram are filled with users purporting to be doms who take the money without doing any of the actual dominating. Social media has made it easy for anyone to pose as a dom.
Chris (not his real name), a professional in his 40s based in the UK, has a painful history with findom. He asked to use a pseudonym for privacy reasons. Chris spent eight years in and out of findom exchanges before finally quitting last year. Now, he spends some of his time trying to reach out to men who post about struggling to get a handle on their relationship with the findom lifestyle. “I think in my case, honestly, it was a cry for help. With the pressures of my job you really need something else to escape life when you’re working 70-hour weeks,” he said. “It was a bad coping mechanism for me.”
It started out with relatively low stakes. “I had a few different doms. There wasn’t much actual domming going on, I would just talk to them and on occasion I’d send them something,” he explained. His breaking point came last year. “I was burnt out at work, and it felt overwhelming. I was at a low point, then my dad got a terminal illness, and then I got heavily involved with this one dom.” Chris trailed off, and when he spoke again he sounded emotional. “A lot of subs end up having romantic feelings for their doms, and it’s very confusing. Maybe for doms it’s easy to separate, but for subs it can be quite hard.”
Chris told me the way things ended with the dom made him reevaluate everything. “It was almost like a breakup. She just went very cold, and I never understood why, and then she just ignored me,” he said. “I was obviously quite invested emotionally, and it felt really horrible.” He sought the help of a therapist to move on.
For him, this is the root of the problem with findom: “It’s a very confusing relationship to start with, and money confuses that even further. You end up asking, would we still talk if there wasn’t money involved?” He estimated that he sent more than $8,000 to one dom over a year. “A lot of these people don’t have any ethics. In all my talking with any dom, there was rarely a discussion of limits or aftercare,” he said.
Chris said he reaches out to others who seem to be in a similar position because he knows how hard it can be to feel like someone is taking advantage of you. “I think there’s quite a lot of people who got themselves into this mess and don’t know how to get out of it.”
Phillip Hammack, director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said problems can arise when people get into financial domination without doing their due diligence. “If someone is interested in this kink, probably the most important question to ask is, ‘What is my financial capacity to participate in this?’”
Hammack doesn’t see exploitation as a problem inherent in the kink itself. “The biggest misunderstanding is that it’s exploitative. There’s a demonization of the people who do it, like, ‘Oh, they’re trying to psychologically manipulate weak people,’” Hammack told me. “But that’s a lack of recognition of the power of the sub in any kind of dynamic. I mean, they’re the ones with the money at the end of the day.”
When people criticize findom, Hammack told me, “what they’re not thinking about is that the person with the most power in the dynamic is not the dom, it’s the sub. Because the entire dynamic relies completely on the submissive person relinquishing power. Most of that power is actually in the hands of the sub because they can just stop at any time.”
Hammack said he noticed an explosion in the fetish during the pandemic. “The pandemic was so much about social isolation and a fear and anxiety around human connection in person,” he told me. “All you had for information and connection was social media. More and more people actually went online and explored their kinks or explored their sexuality more broadly.” The findom kink dovetailed perfectly with social distancing. “Here’s something that is very arousing, that involves a power exchange, that is safe from a COVID perspective, and provides an opportunity for people to expand their sexuality.”
The sexual element of findom may not be apparent to people who are not in the kink, but Hammack said that the arousal “comes from a role-play dynamic that is incredibly taboo.” It’s about the larger context of the role money plays. “We live in a capitalist culture where you could say the whole goal is to make money,” he told me. “If you’re someone who’s aroused by anything that’s taboo — playing with rules and playing with power in any way — this kink is kind of the ultimate.”
People can find themselves drawn to findom for all kinds of reasons. “One of the most interesting motivations has to do with role-play to address feelings of privilege and guilt,” he explained. “People have anxieties around their own racial privilege, or guilt around economic inequality, and findom can be a way for them to address those feelings.” Silver echoed this sentiment and added, “There’s a huge pay gap between Black women and white men. I’m bridging that directly through my work.”
Some clients are drawn to financial domination because of a different type of power imbalance. “There’s also role-playing to process trauma for people who have been bullied,” Hammack said. “You’d think, ‘Why would someone who has been bullied pay someone else to bully them?’ Well, it’s because they’re the ones with the money now. So they have control over the interaction.”
In the years that Silver has been a financial dominant, she’s seen clients who run the gamut from longterm submissives to one-time splurgers. “I love a doctor. I love a lawyer. A broker or a consultant — absolutely,” she said. “But those are not guys who want to build relations. They want to throw a couple of thousand at you and then peace.”
Silver can quickly tell what those clients want. “They want to jerk off and throw money at you, that’s really it. They might be saying while they’re jerking off that they want a relationship,” she said, “but the second they come, they’re going to take a cold shower, straighten up, and then go throw their money at their wife instead.”
This is perhaps the most common stereotype of financial submissives — that they’re rich men who behave recklessly for a thrill. It’s also perhaps the most confounding configuration, especially to people who aren’t wildly wealthy. Silver interpreted this kind of client’s behavior like this: “They know they’re submissive, and they know they can’t express that in their relationship or their personal life or their workplace.” As a result, she said, “they come here to sacrifice to the woman they desire and they can attain and express their submission through that.” In a sense, it’s a release valve. “They jerk off and they throw their money away and there isn’t really any consequences for it. They just do it routinely.”
This is not to say Silver is complaining. Remember her top-earning month, in January? Of the $34,000 she made, more than half — about $20,000 — was from just one client. “We barely spoke,” Silver said. “He was just sending and buying gifts.” At some point in his drain, the big spender made some requests too. “He’d be like, ‘Can you take a video of you and your boyfriend flipping me off and saying to send more?’ and my boyfriend would send him a voice note being like, ‘Send more, loser.’”
Silver struggles to connect with what counts as “a lot of money.” “I fully recognize that I’ve lost touch, because $300 a day is $10K a month, and yet if I make $300 in a day, I’m disappointed.”
“I’m making a lot of money but nowhere near some of the girls who make like $100K a month.” This isn’t a complaint. “I do the bare minimum,” Silver said. “If I make something close to the low end of average, I look at what I could’ve done. Did I put out less content? Did I not post for a week?”
But Silver is protective of her time off. “If I wanted to buy a house at the end of the year, I would work nonstop, and I could do it,” she told me. “But you burn out. And then you take a long break and then decide you can’t do it anymore and you quit.” That’s not what she wants. “I want it to be sustainable, so I integrate in a way that I love.”
That means Silver’s schedule is pretty leisurely these days. “If I want a bagel in the morning, I’ll text the group chat or I’ll tweet and be like, ‘Good morning, I want a bagel and a coffee, send $25,’” she said. “I’m not going to get online after that until I have my bagel and my coffee and maybe smoke a joint and watch a little Scooby-Doo.” Then, around lunchtime, she’ll dive back into communicating with her subs. “Most of the time, I block out three or four hours of the day for it, and I try not to work beyond that.”
“So many people try to do this work and so many fail it because they don’t have good time management, money management, or emotional management,” she said. “It’s a lot of labor, and you can really easily get lost in it if you exclusively chase the money and not the relationships.”
But doesn’t it get tempting to work longer hours if it means a guaranteed increase in income? “Yeah, but then you’re going to work until you have nothing left to give,” she said. “For me, findom is about living a life of luxury. And time is the most luxurious thing, in my opinion.”●