Philadelphia Sex Diaries: I’m a Secret Dominatrix

It started with dirty panties.

I was inspired by a friend — and Orange Is the New Black — to sell my worn underwear on Craigslist. I’m a college senior with a 3.61 GPA and two internships. I don’t exactly have time for a job, and hawking my thongs online for $30 a pop was a quick way to earn some extra cash. Before long, I discovered FetLife, a social networking site where people interested in fetishism, BDSM and other triple-X pursuits can chat with each other and post photos and videos. It’s like the kinky love child of Facebook and Reddit.

I connected with a guy — 30-something, works as a consultant — who asked me to Skype with him. The deal: 20 minutes for $50 in Amazon gift cards. I accepted, nervous and unsure of what to expect. I slipped on a bathrobe and chugged a glass of wine as I raced around my apartment, trying to find the perfect setup. The kitchen table was too formal, and the coffee table was way too low. I ultimately landed in the bedroom — which I happen to share with a roommate. She sat, wide-eyed, on her bed, just out of the camera’s reach. But the consultant was less interested in seeing me naked than I’d anticipated. Instead, he wanted to see my feet. And … my toilet.

Confused, I moved to the bathroom — could my white porcelain Kohler really be considered sexy? — and awkwardly circled my laptop around the toilet rim. He asked me to describe how I’d make him clean it with his tongue. And then he asked to watch me spit. So began my foray into the world of domination.

It’s a far cry from my otherwise vanilla life. By day, I’m the quiet girl who blushes when she participates in class. But as soon as I get home and log on, I become Paris Powell — a fierce, powerful woman who tells guys to lick her toilet, clean her shoes with their teeth and drink her urine. And who gets paid for it.

I currently have four “slaves,” all of whom I met through FetLife. Two pay me up to $100 a week; one sends me $50 every two weeks. (He’s also in college; I give him a student discount.) They have to buy me monthly gifts on Amazon, too. But I pay it forward: Each month, my slaves have to donate to a charity of my choice. For this, I send them derogatory, insulting text messages and videos of me doing things like crushing nuts with my boots. (This is what I’d do to your nuts, I say.) Sometimes it gets really weird: I once sent a man videos of me pooping. I also sold him a poop-stained thong for $45. Disgusting, I know. But when you can make money for something you do naturally, it’s hard not to milk it.

My fourth slave is the only one I’ve agreed to meet in person. He’s in his 60s, married, and a practicing psychologist in Philly. (Go figure.) Sometimes he pays me to meet him for coffee, just to talk as friends. Occasionally he pays me to come to his office and beat him to a pulp. All while his patients sit unsuspecting in the waiting room.

In the end, I don’t make nearly enough to live on. But I do make enough to have some spending money. And the work is strangely rewarding. The men tell me I make their lives better. I give them companionship, and the structure and rules they crave. (For example, they’re not allowed to eat meat on Sundays because I’m a vegetarian.) And they give me confidence, a jolt of energy in my otherwise pedestrian life. When I’m on the other side of the computer screen, I’m powerful. A goddess. A total badass. You know, one who lives on a pretty campus in a tidy apartment right next to an R.A. who has no idea that I’m on the other side of the door letting a guy in Alabama watch me take a dump for $45.

*Some names in this essay have been changed. 

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Philadelphia Sex Diaries: I’m 77 and Having the Best Sex of My Life

When I lost my first husband, I was 58. We were married for 32 years. My daughter Debbie put me on a dating website. I was on that stupid Internet all the time because Debbie, she said to me, “You have to answer at least 10 to 20 ads a night, Mom.” I was working full-time and I was up until one o’clock in the morning answering these ads. I got all these crazy responses from young men looking for older women. Anyway, it got a little complicated. My family gave me a surprise 60th birthday party, and I brought one guy with me, Henry, and I walked into this party — it was at my own house — and two of the other guys I was dating were there, too. Debbie took me into the garage and said, “Who do you want to stay over tonight?”

Henry was from North Jersey. He was a pleasant chap, but he couldn’t really keep up with me. But with the sex, he was pretty good. He actually could not have an erection because he was on medicine for his heart, but he said, “I know how to please a woman.” And he was very good at it! He even bought me a dildo. I’d never had that before because my first husband, he was a gem, but he wasn’t very adventuresome. Henry, on the other hand, was willing to try anything.

The only thing is that he had ridges on his head. He had a beautiful head of white hair, but it was a turnoff because he had all these bumps. But he insisted that I had to touch his head, that it was a way to prove that I really loved him. I went out with him for nine months. He was a stepping-stone to others. It turned out to be really good that I had this experience. It gave me confidence.

I had a few other friendships. There was one guy who lives in Haddonfield who I liked a lot, but he was not the kind of guy to make a commitment, and he was so weird. He wanted to have sex, but he didn’t want to have intercourse — he just wanted to be able to have a climax and thought I should have a climax, but no penetration. He said it was too intimate.

And then I met Andy. He’s Italian, so he’s very demonstrative and sexy. My first husband never practiced cunnilingus on me because he was very conservative. And Andy never did, either, until recently — I don’t know what happened! But that’s a new adventure for me. And it was very pleasurable. You can tell all the people who are 77 and older that they should never give up.

So anyway, I’m married to Andy now. We went out on a Wednesday and he asked me out the following Friday, and we’ve been together ever since. We were married in Thailand, on a pineapple plantation. It was a surprise. I had no idea we were getting married, but Andy had arranged it all. It was crazy. Absolutely crazy. — As told to Emily Goulet

*Some names in this essay have been changed. 

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Philadelphia Sex Diaries: I’m a Cheating Newlywed

I’ve known Mark* for 15 years. He’s been in love with me since I was in my teens; he was my brother’s friend. Before I even met Derrick — that’s my husband — Mark and I were kind of a thing. We weren’t dating; it was just casual. Once I met Derrick, I left Mark, but it didn’t stick.

In 2015, Derrick and I were engaged and had hit a rough patch, so I turned back to Mark. When we started back up, it took on a new dimension. Mark expressed how much he wanted to be with me. And he was all I could think about.

But then it came time to plan my wedding in 2016. We were so wrapped up in the wedding details, I barely thought of Mark at all. I wanted to throw the perfect wedding. Then once all that was over and done with, I thought, What am I doing? I love two men. There’s no way my husband would ever go for an open marriage; he’s very set that I’m his one and only.

The sex with my husband is extremely boring. I’m just not into it. With Mark, it’s mind-blowing. We’re sex soul mates. No one has his touch. When we touch, I can feel the electricity. And my fingertips remember how he feels. When I think about him, my hands tingle. We could literally be in bed for 48 hours straight and have no desire to leave the bed. It can be round after round. We can be done and he still wants to do it again right away. I’ve never experienced anything like it before.

But Mark lives in a different city, so I only get to see him every other month. I don’t worry about my husband finding out. I’m really good at covering my tracks, making sure my phone notifications are off and staying on top of deleting messages. For contact between Mark and me, we text and video using Snapchat, so there’s no record of it on my phone bill and the messages never stay on my phone. I work for one of the largest tech companies in the world, so it’s much easier for me to cover it up than for Derrick to actually find evidence. I guess I’ve been in love with Mark forever, and it’s something that we never really addressed. We don’t want to be without each other.

I love my husband as well. He gives me things that Mark could never give me. They are, after all, two totally different people. Some days I feel guilty, but then when Derrick and I have rough times, Mark is my outlet. I tell my husband he needs to pay more attention to me, but he doesn’t. It just doesn’t work. And I’ve always been the kind of person who makes myself happy.

I really have no idea how this is all going to end. I want to let everything play out. I tried to end it with Mark, and it doesn’t work. He says he wants to be together forever. He thinks this would be the best thing ever.

But I tell him that he only has 25 percent of me. He doesn’t have the You-need-to-pay-the-bills me. He doesn’t have the I-need-to-clean-the-house me. There are no stressors in our relationship. I’m just a fantasy that he gets to participate in. If it became real, it wouldn’t be this.

— As told to Victor Fiorillo

*Some names in this essay have been changed. 

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The Internet Is Killing Happiness. Can We Stop It?

Illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare

Illustration by Eleanor Shakespeare

So, I’ll admit it: I was looking at my phone the moment my two-year-old fell off a stump at our little Fairmount playground and bashed his forehead on a log.

For the record, I wasn’t scanning Instagram or ordering from Amazon; I was texting my husband about dinner. I emphasize this distinction only because it’s what I repeated to myself over and over as I lifted the ice pack to watch the nickel-size lump on my son’s baby skull swell to a goose egg: At least it wasn’t People.com.

Also, I thought, as my kid chomped an ice-cream bar and the knot on his forehead turned a sickly purple, kids fall all the time. Heads get bashed. I’m no helicopter mom. Even without the phone, I wouldn’t have caught him. And so on. Eventually, I let it go. Read more »

Philly Babies: A Love Story in Photographs

Baby Aria | Photograph by Matt Stanley

Baby Aria | Photograph by Matt Stanley

Baby Aria: The Perfect-Timing Labor

Delivered at Virtua Voorhees

As a teacher in Princeton, Amanda Hartstein has an hour-long commute. Her first child — Paul, now 16 months — was a July baby. “With Aria, I was working up until the day of,” says Amanda, 31. “I was terrified I was going to have to drive from Princeton to the hospital in Voorhees.” Luckily, her contractions started way before the school day did. Amanda is on maternity leave for three months and will rely on family for childcare. When Amanda’s husband, Paul, a Cherry Hill firefighter, is on one of his 24-hour shifts, her mother, who lives in the next town over, and her mother-in-law, who lives in an attached house, will pitch in. “My brother is having his first baby in February,” Amanda notes, “so my mom will have her hands full with my kids and his!


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Baby Ronan | Photography by Jeff Fusco

Baby Ronan: The Speedy Delivery

Delivered at Lankenau Medical Center

When Kaitlyn Darrach had her first child three years ago, she had a C-section because her daughter was breech. This time, she was determined to have a vaginal delivery — one, it turned out, that happened much more precipitously than anyone anticipated. “The nurses seemed surprised that he was out so quickly. The doctor wasn’t even in the room yet,” Kaitlyn, 29, explains. “It was quiet, and then all of a sudden everyone came running in like, Oh my God, the baby is here.” Just 48 minutes after she started pushing, Kaitlyn had a son. “It’s a whole new experience, and we’re all so happy,” she says. “My daughter is so proud to be a big sister. She loves him.”


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Baby Josephine | Photography by Neal Santos

Baby Josephine: Boy or Girl?

Delivered at Pennsylvania Hospital

“Everyone was convinced I was having a boy,” says first-time mom Alexandra Dowling, 31. “But when I was pregnant, I only had dreams I was having a girl.” Turns out Alexandra was right. Her husband, Stephen, 35, was the one who announced their baby’s sex during the C-section, and the two were so overcome with joy — after all, the only name they’d agreed on was Josephine Tess, for Alexandra’s grandmother and for Stephen’s — that both parents broke down in tears in the operating room. Alexandra observed Josephine’s first moments with Stephen from the operating table. “She wrapped her tiny hand around his finger, and I just saw his heart melt,” she says. “Mine melted, too.”


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Baby Gabriel | Photograph by Jeff Fusco

Baby Gabriel: The Smooth-Sailing (This Time) Birth

Delivered at Lankenau Medical Center

Compared to the delivery for David and Megan Pomante’s first son, Dominic — 36 hours of labor, an emergency C-section, a blood transfusion — this time was a breeze. “We dropped Dom off at daycare, went to the hospital, and they wheeled me in for the scheduled C,” says Megan, 33. “It was pretty seamless.” Still, she felt sick from the drugs after surgery, so while she recovered, David stepped in to provide skin-to-skin contact with Gabriel. It’s something more and more parents are clamoring for — and hospitals are accommodating; skin-to-skin boosts baby’s mental development, promotes bonding and reduces stress, according to studies. “You do what you need to do for your kid,” explains David, 35. “I couldn’t wait to hold him.”


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Baby Christopher | Photography by Jessica Kourkounis

Baby Christopher: The Unexpected C

Delivered at Temple University Hospital

Maritza Badillo Cruz, 28, was nervous when she found out — after her contractions started, after the doctors broke her water, after she got an epidural — that the baby was in the wrong position (face first) and she was going need a C-Section. “My first two kids were natural, so I wasn’t expecting it,” says Cruz. “It didn’t hurt as much as when you give birth, but it hurt a little afterwards. I’m managing well though.” The baby is named after her husband, Christopher Torres Rivera, 28.



Published as “Babies” in the January 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Making Philadelphia Better: How to Get Involved in the Age of Trump

American democracy is on life support. Half the country didn’t show up to vote in 2016. Around 30 percent of millennials say it’s “essential” to live in a democracy. Our Republican president-elect praises Vladimir Putin, and our Democratic leaders praise Fidel Castro. It’s mad. But here’s the good news: You — yes, you — can make a difference. And Philadelphia, the birthplace of the great American experiment, is the perfect place to do it. Read more »

The Great Philadelphia Families

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Think of what Mark Twain said: “In Boston, they ask, how much does he know? In New York, how much is he worth? In Philadelphia, who were his parents?” Brotherly love, sisterly affection: There’s no denying that certain bloodlines have shaped — and are still shaping — this city and our lives.  Read more »

What the Philly Grocery Store Boom Is Really About

Photography by Jeff Fusco

Photography by Jeff Fusco

In early 2008, not long after I came out of a not-excellent relationship, landed a new job and moved to Philadelphia, I found my soul mate at the supermarket. Okay, my soul mate was the supermarket — specifically, the Trader Joe’s around the corner from my apartment.

Like most affairs, this one didn’t really start with love. I just felt lucky that I had such a decent place to shop so close by, even if the cramped store always felt like blizzard shopping, all bumper-carts and panicked grabs for the last box of Puffins. (I once watched a man in the middle of a line so long it wrapped around the store heave a sigh, abandon his basket on the floor — milk and all! — and stomp out the door. As one friend says: “The lines and the parking lot there are like you’re on Candid Camera.”)

But as time went on, I found that it wasn’t just about the convenience of geography: I adored the happy-go-lucky vibe and the friendly (stoned?) dudes in Hawaiian shirts, the punnily named products (“Hold the Cone” mini-ice creams! Adorable!), the famously well-edited selection of frozen meals, the planet’s most addictive chocolate-pistachio toffees. So what if Trader Joe’s didn’t carry fresh shrimp or Ben & Jerry’s or contact solution? The whole store felt like me, or the person I fancied myself to be. Organically inclined, but not overly crunchy. A little more special than Acme, but not as upmarket as Di Bruno’s. Good-humored, not terribly experimental, disinclined to excess and preciousness, with a tendency to overdo it on the snacks and the avocados.

When I moved across town to Fairmount a few years later, I bravely tried to transfer my loyalties to the Whole Foods, which was much closer to my new place and boasted a cult of followers (many of them my friends) so staunch, they made the Scientologists look like Brownies. Somehow, though, it just never took. Sure, the place was gorgeous, the bakery’s cakes were light as air, and the olive selection was basically the eighth wonder of the world. And I was happy enough to pop in for the pre-formed grass-fed burger patties (the best in the city). But I never really felt like I fully belonged amongst its gluten-aware, multi-tattooed denizens. I mean. These people actually remembered to bring their own bags.

“Whole Foods is bullshit,” offers a colleague of mine. “All that effort going into feeling authentic and romanticizing food shopping when the place is all about Ayn Rand-style capitalism.” He prefers Aldi, where “you’re shopping in a gray box with no music; they barely even have shelves. What they have is great stuff, cheap, for which you trade money. That, my friend, is a pure experience.” Read more »

Q&A: Pat Toomey

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Your dad was a union worker. Your mom was a secretary. Having grown up in the white working class, why do you think that community is experiencing such high rates of opioid addiction, imprisonment and suicide? There’s not a simple answer we can point to. The one thing I am sure of is that if we generate stronger economic growth, an environment where people have jobs, where people are getting raises—that may not solve all problems, but it makes all problems easier to solve.

The white working class is expected to go heavily for Donald Trump in November. We’re weeks away from the election, and you still haven’t said whether you’ll vote for him. I’m sure there’s some area where I’ve disagreed with every [Republican] presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan. But it never occurred to me that I had to think long and hard about supporting them. Donald Trump is different. He’s taken some steps that I consider to be very constructive. But I’m still in the mode where I hope to be sold. Read more »

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