The founder of The International Times meets the Netherlands’ most infamous dominatrix.
Back in 1995, Divinity magazine bit the dust. This was unfortunate for many reasons, not least of which was the sheer amount of interesting material that we had lined up – some written, some in planning stages – for the next planned edition. Chief among them was a piece by William Levy called Midnight Smack.
William Levy was a writer, poet, musician and free thinker who had been a founder at the International Times and Suck, had helped organise the Wet Dreams Festival in Amsterdam and more recently had been European Editor at Penthouse and High Times. He was the author of several books such as Jeremaid Chants, Virgin Sperm Dancer and his final world, The Fortunate Traveller. His radio DJ persona, Dr Doo Top, was a regular of the Netherlands radio waves for over twenty years and in 1998, he was awarded the Erotic Oscar for writing at the Sex Maniacs Ball. I met him in 1994, at the outrageous Smut Fest in London, where he was doing a reading – struggling to be heard over an annoyingly indifferent crowd who were only interested in the most sensational visual performances that evening. He liked what we did; we liked what he did. And he seemed a natural fit for Divinity. In the aftermath of that magazine’s demise, we lost touch, as was easy to do in those pre-internet days.
In February this year, we finally re-established contact after something like 23 years. I was keen to have Bill join the Reprobate team; he was keen to do so, though he was suffering from ill-health at the time. Nevertheless, we chatted ideas and he suggested a couple of old pieces to reprint as we worked on material for a future book. He sent over his recent publication, the provocatively titled and extraordinary Rape, a work that showed he had lost none of his power to push the envelope with poetic, challenging writing.
We lost spoke on March 29th. His illness became much worse soon afterwards, and he died on April 22nd, aged 71. It was a terrible loss for those of us who support sexual freedom, quality writing and good company.
Here, as a tribute to Bill, is the piece that we almost published a quarter of a century ago, and the one we first talked about reprinting this year.
Sex and power are rarely far apart.
Two world-famous queens live in The Hague. There is Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands, who travels to foreign countries just to tell them Holland is more than windmills and wooden shoes, ice–skating on frozen canals and cramped writers. Tolerance, she claims, is what makes her country unique.
The other royalty is Monique von Cleef, Queen of Pain. Her advertisement in tourist–guides readily available at the reception desk of major hotels, for once, realistically describes the truth. Under the heading uit is gezellig (going out is wholesome, or cosy) we read: “Dominant Registered Nurse receives submissive slaves in well–equipped torture room. Rubber and leather wardrobe, boots, chains, bondage, water sports, enemas, high colonics. Transvestites may enjoy corsets and elegant dresses from my exquisite boudoir.”
Not far from the International Court of Justice, Monique von Cleef leans forward, a goblet of whiskey with ice in her hand. Sitting in a brightly coloured plush velvet chair in her cosy suburban living room she talks about the humorous side of her calling.
“There’s this ex–priest who visits me,” she says. “Well, he likes to eat shit. Hot – just as it comes out. So I had this girl shit in his mouth. He was gagging, and gasped, ‘It’s too much. Too much.’ So I told him to chew.
“‘Chew’, I screamed. He began chewing, then cried out ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! I’m celebrating the Eucharist. It’s the body of Christ’.
“Holy shit, eh?
“Then there was this woman who used to come to me once a month for a shit and champagne dinner. The shit was elaborately served on a platter with lettuce and tomatoes around it. One day the girl who usually did the shitting for me couldn’t do it. We tried everything. Laxatives. Everything. So what am I to do? I went around the corner and told my problem to one of my nieces. She did the shitting. When the woman came for her dinner she ate one bite of the substitute, got up and left. You see, she knew the difference!
“Then there’s the rabbi who takes off his yarmulka before entering my house. Water sports are popular. I give a lot of enemas. Once I had my pussy sucked by a nun. She did it well. And only last week I had this couple. She likes bondage. Her husband likes to watch. He asked me to suck his wife’s cunt while she was helpless. I wouldn’t do it. I told him: ‘Even for a thousand dollars I wouldn’t suck cunt.’”
The Monique shifts in her seat, takes another sip of whiskey, reconsiders, and says: “Well, maybe I would. If I’m high on coke.”
Monique and I first met many years ago when she was invited to be a judge at the Wet Dreams Festivals, the first erotic film festivals in the world. Later I included her in a book I edited about those historic events. When it was published I received a number of letters saying: “I am the slave of Monique von Cleef. She has ordered me to buy your book.” Just what an author wants – a captive audience.
We lost touch until recently when we ran into each other again at, of all things, a party to launch a book.
Monique is likeable and spirited, like one’s favourite aunt. It’s only now when I look and see that beneath her carefully coiffured upswept blond hair she is wearing a studded dog–collar around her neck, a black leather jacket and leather pants tucked into red boots laced up to the knee. Then I realise – no aunt of mine ever dressed like that. She is also very open with a charitable self–esteem, a cordiality without pride which is infinitely charming.
When I ask Monique, “How did you start in this business? When did you get your calling for making whippee?”, she offers a candid summary of her journey to becoming Paincoming Queen.
“I’ve been a dominatrix for almost thirty years”, she says, stiffening with dignity. “I was born in 1925 and before I got into this I was a nurse, a midwife, and married to a rich Baron. Luckily he died. Then I bought a hotel in Spain. In 1963 I was in the States and a friend told me there was a big demand for dominant females. So I placed an advertisement and was immediately in business. That was in Newark. After a while the Mafia came to me and said: ‘We will protect you and you give us fifty per cent of the take.’ I told them: ‘No; that’s just like working for a pimp.’ Soon after that I was busted. That was in ’65 – it was headlines all over America,” Monique says.
“The trial was in ’67. I was declared guilty, but my lawyers appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court who overturned the conviction on the basis of an illegal search. Justice Douglas wrote a minority opinion arguing that no law was broken because my clients were consenting adults and were entitled to right of privacy.
“That was in ’69 and I had already left the States and was living in London. In ’70 I came back to Holland, worked as a head nurse in a hospital, but I wasn’t making a penny. So I started this, again. And in ’72 my autobiography – House of Pain – was published in New York as a mass-market paperback. In ’80 I went back to America. I was doing well – but didn’t like it.”
“why?” I ask.
“Too dangerous. Too dangerous,” Monique growls in a husky voice. “It’s better in Holland. I charge two hundred and fifty guilders an hour and have six or seven customers who come to see me every week. Many others make special appointments from all over the world. And no one bothers me here. That’s important.”
Putting down her drink Monique reaches out toward a nearby table, picks up a large book and hands it to me. “It’s my scrapbook”, she explains.
Monique gets a number of phone calls while I’m looking through her press clippings and photos of friends and customers. She speaks easily in German, Dutch and English.
“No”, I hear her say in German. “I don’t have a slave boy this week. Number 88 – the one who works for Interpol – he was mean to my servant. I put him on parole.”
On one page of the scrapbook I see a familiar face, It’s a snapshot of the enigmatic film actress Kim Novak who co-starred with Frank Sinatra in The Man with the Golden Arm. In the photo she is sitting on a couch in this very same living room, a Droste cacao–tin effect.
“Oh yes”, Monique replies, indifferent to my surprise. “That’s Kim Novak. She wants to be spanked. Barney Rossett of Grove Press is another old customer of mine. But you know, I have standards for accepting new slaves. If they’re too nervous, I drop them. A real slave is always trying you out. I have to mould them a little bit at a time. Also, some people say ‘no’ and mean no; others say ‘no’ and mean yes. You have to know the difference. The main basis is mutual trust. People trust me.
“But fantasy and reality are so far apart” Monique philosophises. “It’s such a difference, you know. You have no smell in your fantasies. Nothing can offend you. You can fantasise about a terrible beating but you don’t really feel a thing. And of course a lot of people want to be my assistant. But either you are this way or you aren’t.
“A lot of girls they say, Oh there is a lot of money to make in this and so on. They want to do it. But if you’re not really dominant you can never have slaves. You can’t.
“One girl worked with me for about two months and she was very dominant. But she’s an exhibitionist, which is wrong in our field, because slaves don’t really want to see you naked. They like it much more if you tease them. I mean, you can show an opened leather bra or something. They don’t want a naked scene because they want to see you as a mistress, not like any other woman.
“So her biggest kick was, you know, doing things for people. She was sitting. Undressed. And she was masturbating and the slaves got disgusted with it! Then she didn’t like the whole thing anymore. She thought, well…We were really too far out and we were a bit sick, a bit disturbed. She started probing into people. Why are you this way? How come? And how long? That is stupid. You can’t ask this to start with. Later on sometimes they tell you, sometimes they don’t even know. For me it’s the greatest thing that my slaves are happy.”
Monique von Cleef’s job is as old as the first human organisation. Her role a parody of (and a parable on) the dynamic complementarity between the ruler and the ruled. A cautionary tale for knee–jerk liberal pleaders who in misunderstanding desire, desire authority to fulfil the task of being their good masters. An instructional metaphor for the nature of the State: the need to be punished and/or to punish is a ‘monad’ for all political expressions. Yet if one can experience pleasure from a beating, one can also experience mystical ecstasy at the sight of a tree or a leaf. In a distorted way there is a touch of the saint about voluntary slaves; saints without a cause. Balzac visited Madame de Hanska’s estate in the Ukraine and observed that the servants literally threw themselves on their stomachs when they came into one’s presence, beat the ground three times with their foreheads, and kissed one’s feet. It was only in the East, he noted, that they really knew the meaning of subservience. It was only there that the word ‘power’ had any genuine significance. Is that why ritualised S&M is so popular in the West? As a compensation for the lack of the real thing.
Interrupting my reflections, Monique suddenly stands up. “Come”, she says, gesturing toward me with a sweep of her arm.
“Come! Come upstairs with me to my torture chamber. I have a slave girl waiting for you. It’s Veronica Vera. Perhaps you have heard of her. She is one of America’s new, up–and–coming radical perverts. You will like her. She has purple hair.”
Upstairs I find myself in a room resembling a creepy interrogation cave left over from the sixteenth-century inquisition, when Spain ruled The Netherlands. And yes. Standing in the corner I see a purple-haired woman wearing nothing but bright red lipstick, a garter belt, sheer stockings, high heels and a gold ring hanging from the pierced nipple of one of her large breasts.
“So. This is the boudoir,” Monique says.
“Is there a lot of call for those religious objects, or is that your special taste?” I ask.
“No. We are closing so many churches in Holland, you know, and one of my slaves knew the pastor and he brought me the big cross that hangs there. I like it. I think it’s kind of funny to have in the house, but some slaves they come in here the first time and they say after a while: ‘I waited for months to come to see you because I was deadly scared. But when I saw all those religious things, I thought, she can’t be a bad woman.’ Isn’t it funny the way people think?”
“And what’s this thing?”
“For ass cheeks, to make blood. You make it very soon with it. Some people like to see blood and before you can really whip somebody bloody, which I don’t…I can give somebody seventeen hundred lashes and he just has marks. But some people like to see blood and if you use this on the cheeks in no time blood just comes out. And you say: ‘Well, lick your own blood off.’”
Suddenly, Monique grabs Veronica, ties her legs with cord, puts her wrists in handcuffs and hauls her nearly nude body off the ground with pulleys.
“I’m afraid”, Veronica cries out, “that I’m going to slide out of these wrist things.”
Monique responds with professional scorn. “I’ve heard that before. Try to move your fingers. Try to move your fingers” she insists. Veronica moves her fingers and Monique shouts: “Why are you moving your fingers!?!” Veronica stops. “Now”, Monique in her best bedside manner, “tell me how you feel?”
“Look in the mirror and see yourself. Helpless.”
“It doesn’t humiliate me to see myself in this mirror”, Veronica says, trying out her Mistress. She suggests: “I’m getting excited to be whipped.”
“Will you settle for twenty strokes?” Monique asks.
Veronica sighs: “I’ll settle for ten.”
“Then I’ll give you twenty-five.”
“Oh please, not twenty-five…”
Monique lowers Veronica from the chains to the floor, then puts her over her knees and begins the caning. Under her breath Veronica starts counting: “One, two, three, four…”
“Don’t count”, Monique tells her. “I can count; I’ve gone to school. You can scream – don’t count!”
“I’ve got someone who screams like that when he comes”, Monique observes. “Now, I’m going to let you loose if you ask me to give you three more.”
“Pleeezz”, Veronica pleads, “oh please Monique. Give me three more.”
Monique puts down the cane. “Lean on your knees”, she sneers at Veronica. “I’m going to give you a spanking. How about forty?”
“Yes Monique. Forty.”
The sound of flesh hitting flesh reverberates around the torture chamber, as if each slap is doubled. “Pleeeeze”, Veronica sobs. “I like it and I hate it!”
“My hand”, Monique whispers, “is more evil than a whip.”
“Aaaarrrggghhh. Aaaarrrggghhh. Ouweee!”
“You have an exciting scream”, Monique says, granting a conditional approval, and thus fulfilling her role as a good ruler.
Why not? After all, wine and tobacco are taken to alter one’s consciousness, to de–subjectify oneself, the catharsis, the much sought after shamanistic click. The same aim as the pain seeker and to a lesser extent the pain dealer. And, at the risk of being accused of trafficking in pedantic homilies, I must say, the issue is the same with both mood changers and sexuality: the right to do what one wants with one’s own body – the only thing one really owns. The body is the temple of the soul and a temple is sacred property only when a sanctuary.
A week after the beating, Veronica Vera tells me:
“S&M, Bondage and Domination are mainly mind trips, a kind of religious communion, a moral death and rebirth. But now my ass is black and blue, and I love it. The whipping Monique gave me was better than ten enemas.”
Of course Monique is just tickled to hear about Veronica’s response to their cooperation. “What’s life”, she asks, “without laughs?”
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