Occasionally I get questions about why I do findom play, often from more traditional kinksters who seem surprised that a guy who cares so much about ethical kink would do a form of kink that is often looked down on as being unethical. So I thought I’d write a post explaining my thoughts on the issue.
I think it’s important to recognize that people approach findomming from two very different directions. A lot of findoms (and here I’ll use that term for both men and women in the dominant position in this activity) approach this scene as a way to make money. They treat it essentially as a job or a side hustle, so their goal is to make as much money as they can. Most of these findoms, so far as I can see, aren’t actually dominant; they’ve simply learned that they can play the role online and if they do it well, they can make some money at it. I periodically get DMs from young guys asking me to teach them how to do findomming because they need money. (I pretty much always tell them that it’s probably way more effort than it’s worth.)
This crowd, often referred to online as the Insta-Doms, puts a heavy emphasis on youth, beauty, and physical fitness as marking them out as supposedly superior to their finsubs, who they tend to deride as ‘fags’ and ‘losers’. They typically don’t understand much about submissive psychology and don’t really understand why submissive guys enjoy findom, so they tend to imitate what they see successful findoms doing–if you follow their Twitter feeds, you’ll see lots of posts about feet, middle fingers, guys angrily shouting ‘fuck you, pay me!’, and so on. The worst examples of this group do incredibly unethical things in their attempts to squeeze more money out of a sub, such as urging them to get high or drunk so they lose control of their tributing, tricking them into a Teamviewer session and then looting their bank account, or threatening to blackmail or even actually blackmailing the unfortunate sub. This group is responsible for most of the bad press that findom gets, and many of them have given very little thought to the ethical dimension of what they do or to any of the basic principles of proper bdsm. Unfortunately, many of these findoms think that bdsm is just the Outer Layer stuff.
The other approach to findom is the one that I take, namely exploring it as a kink, as a form of power exchange in the same fashion that bondage, erotic torture, and humiliation are forms of power exchange. Whereas the first category of findoms are essentially doing sex work–exchanging a sexual service for money as a way to make a living– those who approach findom as a kink come it from a very different direction. Many of us are traditional kinksters who are interested in a wide range of bdsm activities and therefore have thought about the ethics of kink, how to do kink safely, and so on.
Personally, I view the money exchanged during a findom scene as a tool for power exchange, a symbol of the surrender the boy is enacting with me. When a boy sends me money, he is making a tangible sacrifice of his power to me. In that sense, money in findom play is comparable to the paddle used to give a boy a spanking or the rope used to tie him up–it is a tool of the power exchange and not the power exchange itself. Nor is the money the goal of the scene. The goal of the scene is to do something both participants find incredibly arousing.
So why do I do findom when I could do other forms of kink, like bondage or pain play? That gets more complicated, so let me explain.
The internet has been a great boon to kinksters. It’s allowed many isolated kinky people to discover that they’re not alone, that they’re not sick, that their desires can be safely indulged. It’s allowed us to have conversations with people in other parts of the country and the world whom we might otherwise never have met. And during Covid, when meeting people physically is risky, it allows us an outlet to deal with some of our stress.
But along with that benefit comes the downside of meeting people online; sometimes you feel a strong click with a person online, and you can’t actually play with them because they are too far away for meeting to be practical. I’ve talked with boys in Europe, for example, and felt a great connection with them, but felt the frustration of not being able to give them a beating or have them drink my piss. There is a natural urge to try to establish some form of long-distance power exchange with them.
But in my experience, most forms of online power exchange don’t work in a way that really satisfies me. What typically happens (at least, this is what always used to happen with me, so maybe it’s just my limitations as a Dom) is that I wind up giving orders to the boy to do something–maybe it’s something mundane like work out to improve his body for me or maybe it’s something kinky, like clean his house in the nude while wearing a collar. But it never feels like proper power exchange, because I’m not deriving any particular benefit from what’s going on. The boy isn’t doing my dishes; he’s doing his dishes. So he gets the benefits of his work and he feels like I’m domming him, and my dishes still needs washing.
And after a few fumbling attempts at this when I first started exploring kink, I realized what the problem is. Online power exchange runs the wrong way. In proper power exchange (at least as I conceive it), the power is running from the sub to the dom. The sub is making some sort of sacrifice; he’s letting his ass get beaten or he’s sweeping the floors or he’s wearing embarrassing clothing, or whatever. He’s getting pleasure out of it, to be sure, but he’s yielding control and making some sacrifice of his time, comfort, or whatever, to the dom, and I’m getting the power to beat him or humiliate him or whatever.
But in most forms of online play, the sub isn’t sacrificing anything, because he’s just being ordered to do something he wants to do and in many cases (for example, doing his chores in the nude) he’s doing something he would already do for himself; his energy is coming back to himself for his benefit and not the Dom’s benefit. So the dom is expending his energy coming up with interesting tasks for the sub and all he’s getting back is a faint sense of control and authority. In other words, the dom is sacrificing his time and effort for the sub’s pleasure, instead of the other way around. It’s a sub-centered approach, not a Dom-centered approach.
I see this all the time on Fetlife. Doms post in the forum I moderate asking for help coming up with tasks for their sub. I always respond that the chores they come up with should always be things that benefit themselves in some concrete way and if they’re agonizing over coming up with kinky chores, they’re doing it ‘wrong’ because they’re serving their sub instead of the other way around. (And yes, I’m aware that if they enjoy it, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. I talk about it that way because I’m pointing out that there’s another way to frame it that they may enjoy more. And let me add that if a dom/sub couple enjoy doing things online this way, that’s great. It just doesn’t work for me.)
So when boys approach me to play long-distance, I always explain that there aren’t a lot of ways for me to concretely benefit from their service. They can’t suck my dick or mow my lawn if they live in another state or country. I’ve had to turn down a good number of boys I was quite interested in or resort to saying “if you’re ever in my neck of the woods or vice versa, let’s get together”, simply because I couldn’t find a way to have the sort of power I want over the boy.
And that’s where findom comes in for me. It is one of the few kinks that I can practice at a distance in which the power exchange flows the right way for me. When a boy tributes money or sends me a gift off my Amazon wishlist, he is making a tangible sacrifice. Both he and I know that he is giving up something to me, transferring power to me in a way that he feels (and may feel a small pinch from) the same way he does when I take a crop to his ass. The point of the tribute is to transfer power in a clear way, not just to make me richer.
So when I do a findom scene with a boy, I’m not just taking money and sending him on his way. I do thought-out scenes that culminate in tribute. These scenes usually involve verbal worship and praise, kinky talk and verbal abuse, the boy using a toy on himself, the boy begging for permission to send or for permission to jack off, and so on. The moment the boy sends the money is usually the sexual climax of the scene, and I often take my time getting to that climax. So the way I do it, tribute is simply one component in a complex scene tailored to meet the particular boy’s needs and desires.
Nor is the amount the point of the scene, although admittedly a larger amount feels more arousing and exciting to both participants. One of my most memorable scenes involved a cashslave begging permission to send $1. I did it to prove that I could make a scene intense no matter how much money was involved. So I spent half an hour taunting him for only being able to send one measly dollar and he got to grovel and apologize and say how pathetic he was, and we both had a really intense orgasm when I finally allowed him to send that $1. In fact, he came without touching his dick. That’s what I mean that the money isn’t the goal, it’s just the tool. That scene was a humiliation scene in which that $1 was just a symbol for the humiliating power imbalance we were creating.
I have seen and read a lot of arguments against findom, so the easiest way to address them is through a conversation format.
You shouldn’t do findom. It’s immoral! That’s purely a value judgement. That’s like saying I shouldn’t have sex with men because it’s immoral. And the same argument is often made against many other forms of kinky sex. If you don’t approve of it, don’t do it. But other kinksters can legitimately practice kinks you dislike.
But findom has a lot of potential to harm the sub. That’s true. But that’s also true for a lot of other major forms of kink play. Bondage and pain play, if done badly, have considerable potential to seriously injure the sub. Breath play can be, and sadly sometimes is, fatal. Humiliation and verbal abuse can inflict deep emotional wounds on a sub if done thoughtlessly. The fact that findom has risks to it doesn’t invalidate it as a kink. It just means that, like all other kinks, it needs to be done with an eye to safety and risk-awareness so that the dom is looking out for the sub and the sub is aware of the risks, consents to them, and understands he’s free to stop if he wishes.
Ok, but how do you do findom safely? Simple. You talk about things like budgeting with the sub. I want to know what the sub thinks he can safely tribute so that I never push him to send money he doesn’t have or needs to spend on necessities. One rule I encourage is that the finsub’s tribute should come out of his discretionary budget, such as his entertainment budget or the money he might spend on a date. I make it clear to my finsubs that they are never to do something like short their rent or skip a mortgage payment. When Covid hit, I had conversations with my finsubs about how the economic downturn was affecting their ability to tribute and in a couple cases I told the boy I wasn’t going to allow him to tribute until his finances were more stable. I have one boy who badly wants to tribute and I firmly tell him no because he just isn’t in a situation for that right now. The sub’s safety should always be the Dom’s top concern, and in findomming, the sub’s financial well-being has to come first.
What about the findoms who talk about pressing a cashslave to send them their mortgage payment? That’s 100% wrong, and when I see findoms talking about that, I call them out for it. But malicious or unethical play isn’t unique to the findom scene. The gay community has long has a problem with ‘chickenhawks’, older guys who look for young, naive gay boys to sexually exploit, and there’s definitely some of that in the gay kink community. The straight kink scene has a problem with male doms sexually assaulting femsubs or refusing to respect limits and safe words. Some predators try to disguise domestic violence as bdsm play. Malicious or unethical play doesn’t invalidate any other form of kink, so I don’t see why it would invalidate findom as a kink. The fact that findom has potential for abuse is precisely why I’m so vocal about ethical findom (and if you look at the #ethicalfindom hashtag on twitter, you’ll see lots of conversations about these issues, as well as many findoms doing things like making charitable donations out of their tributes).
All you’re doing is taking money from a sub. A dom should be nurturing his subs. I absolutely agree with the second statement, and the findoms I respect all do as well. Sure, a one-off tribute can be a fun little ego-stroke, but I find it far more rewarding to develop significant relationships with my finsubs, and most of them enjoy feeling like they have a wiser, more experienced man guiding and mentoring them and helping them solve problems, which is exactly what I do with the boys I regularly play with in person. With many of my boys, I help them set personal goals and encourage them to work hard to achieve them. I’ve had more than one boy working on fitness or weight-loss goals, for example, so that they get to send a tribute when they hit a weight goal. One boy had to tribute the amount of money he would have spent on fancy coffee drinks each week, so that I was redirecting him away from a habit he wanted to break. I have another boy I’m mentoring in learning to cook so he can eat more healthily. Not every one of my boys wants that sort of dynamic, but the overwhelming majority of them do, and I think most of my finsubs would say that they were deriving something much more than simple erotic pleasure from our interactions. And, frankly, I want my boys to feel that what they are getting from me in terms of guidance, moral support, verbal play, and mentoring outweighs what they are sending me financially.
What about the guys who get addicted to findom? I don’t like to talk about ‘sex addiction’ because that stretches the idea of addiction (which involves dependency on a foreign substance that alters the brain’s chemistry) well beyond what it can probably support. The person who invented the concept of sex addiction wasn’t trained in a mental health field and the whole concept of ‘sex addiction’ has historically been used to impose heteronormative and patriarchal values on women and LGBT people. That said, I do agree that findom can become dangerously compulsive for some people, the same way a lot of other sexual and non-sexual practices can become compulsive. I 100% support subs who feel that findom has become damaging or unhealthy and who therefore feel that they need to stop doing it. Like with many things–alcohol, for example–findom can definitely be unhealthy for some people. If I felt like a boy had reached a point where tributing was destructive to his overall financial or mental health, I would not permit him to tribute to me any longer.
You’re really just doing a form of sex work. Calling it sex work implies I’m doing this for a living. If that were the case, I’d be in a lot of trouble because this certainly won’t pay my mortgage. I do this because I find it genuinely arousing, the same way I find erotic torture arousing. So I’m not doing this as sex work. However, if I were doing it as sex work, I wouldn’t find anything wrong with that, and I won’t slut-shame guys (or women) who approach this as sex work. The current economy is disastrous for a lot of people and it’s not my place to judge someone who decides to do findomming for economic reasons. I’ll judge them for how they do findom, for example if they do it in a way that harms their subs, but I won’t judge them simply for doing it. And let’s be honest, the number of people who can actually make a living at findom is pretty small, and they have to be very good at what they do. They have to put in an enormous amount of effort looking good, building strong relationships with their finsubs, and marketing themselves to the right audience. For most people, findom is a shitty way to make a living.
But how can sending someone money be a kink? Kink involves leather and paddles and stuff like that. Kink involves eroticizing things that aren’t overtly sexual. There are people who eroticize balloons and centaurs, for Christ’s sake! And honestly, the idea that money is erotic isn’t hard to figure out. Our society views money as a form of power, so it makes sense that some people will find the idea of giving money to someone else erotic. There are guys who enjoy paying for sex even when they can find it in other ways. Maybe they enjoy paying because it makes them feel in control or maybe they enjoy paying because it makes them feel inferior. Money is money, but it’s also a powerful symbol for a wide range of things: sexual pleasure, social clout, moral value, attractiveness, and so on. So it’s hardly surprising that some guys find the idea of sending money to someone they regard as superior and unobtainable wildly erotic. As a kink, findom plays with those sorts of feelings.
Findom has no place in traditional leather practices. Leaving aside the dubious idea that ‘traditional leather’ was ever one fixed set of practices, it’s probably true that leather as it was practiced in the 70s and 80s (or earlier) didn’t make much use of this kink. But ‘Old Guard’ leather also didn’t make use of pup play, spandex, sports gear, rubber, or any of a number of other fetish practices that have emerged since then. The kink scene changes and evolves over time. The fact that your old master never did findom doesn’t mean it’s an illegitimate form of kink. It just means that findom hadn’t emerged in the leather scene at the time or that it didn’t fit with your old master’s ideas of power exchange. And the mythical Old Guard were rules-breakers and rebels, so imposing a rule in the name of rules-breaking is kind silly.
No, what I mean is that Old Guard leathermen gave leather to their subs. The transfer of wealth went the other way, from dom to sub. Sure! That’s a great thing to do. Passing down your leathers to a worthy boy or to a dom in training as a rite of passage is a great practice, loaded with emotional meaning and weight. But that doesn’t mean that other dynamics aren’t possible or acceptable. And let’s be honest, ‘earning your leathers’ was never a universal practice and it’s not all that common today. To the extent that it was practiced, it was practiced in part because there weren’t a whole lot of people making and selling leather, so the community needed to share the resources available. And good leather was expensive back then and it’s expensive now, which is why most people hold onto it and don’t just pass it down to a sub.
Well, findom makes me really uncomfortable. That’s fair. So don’t do it. No one is demanding that you participate in this scene. But there are lots of kinks that can make people uncomfortable: rape scenes, race play, humiliation, piss, scat, fisting, diapers, sissification, and so on. The solution to that problem is to not watch it or get involved in it. That’s one reason that I periodically Tweet a reminder to people that they can block specific #hashtags I use, and I try to make sure that I always use the #findom hashtag on relevant posts. And let’s not forget the principle of Your Kink Is Not My Kink, but Your Kink is Ok, also known as “Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.”