I've dabbled in power play and even find it mildly amusing, but I was having a hard time understanding the appeal of virtual BDSM. A little spanking, a light choking, sure -- but desktop sharing? I was more bored than anything by my experience at Harley's hands, so I reached out to one of her submissives to better understand the appeal.
Michael, a name I'll use to preserve his anonymity, has been involved in different aspects of BDSM for the past 20 years. He found Harley through a Google search in 2016 and soon after entered into a 10-year, $15,000 debt contract at 10 percent interest. He says he now pays out about half of his post-tax income to her every month. For Michael, financial submission is the ultimate sexual experience, and doing it online allows him a level of anonymity that he can't achieve in the relatively small community he lives in.
"What I'm most interested in is being under someone's control, being under someone's direction, and money in our society is very important in regards to what you can achieve really," Michael said. "It's unfortunately that way, but that's the way it is. It is the ultimate form of control to me. It's just, a phenomenal all-encompassing way to give up yourself to someone else."
Despite what The Doctors and other detractors might say, Michael says there's nothing harmful about financial domination. He lives a modest lifestyle and his relationship with Harley is far from a negative influence. It allows him to be who he truly is as a person and a sexual being. It's hard to argue with the exchange of money between two seemingly healthy, well-adjusted adults, but Harley's relationships aren't all that morally and ethically black-and-white.
Two years ago Harley entered into a dom-sub relationship with a German IT worker with feminization fantasies. They went through the standard desktop takeover and she installed her custom Android app on his phone. Their relationship grew quickly and Harley regularly had him dressing in a female drag, but he wanted to take his desires even further.
He wanted to be castrated.
He said he'd been dreaming about it for 20 years and had found a doctor in Guadalajara who would do the surgery. After some contemplation and a head-check with her psychologist, Harley agreed to help as tough-love moral support. She says she researched the health risks involved and the doctor he selected. She helped him with a budget for travel, surgery and recovery and she stayed in touch with him immediately before and after he went under the knife. The surgery was successful. Harley's sub had his testicles removed and replaced with unnaturally large silicone implants.
"I'm invested in knowing that my subs are happy and that we're in a symbiotic, reciprocal relationship."
Harley says she treated the request like any other. "The person this person wants to be is a person that does not have any balls," she said matter-of-factly. When I pointed out that it seemed like a greater emotional investment than her day-to-day desktop takeovers and sissy-shaming, she betrayed her blasé attitude.
"I'm invested in knowing that my subs are happy and that we're in a symbiotic, reciprocal relationship, because that's ultimately the point of BDSM and especially domination and submission," she said. "It's that both parties are receiving what they need from the relationship. So I'm invested in knowing that he's healthy, invested in knowing that he's happy, invested in knowing that he receives pleasure from serving me. But I didn't necessarily have an investment in, like, whether he went through with the surgery or not.'"
If you can believe Harley, her line of work is first and foremost about making money -- lots of money. It's about power and sexual desire divorced from reason and morality, and she doesn't care what you think about it. In fact, depending on how you look at it, pushing a client into castration may not actually be the most disturbing request Harley has granted. She occasionally engages in roleplay scenarios that involve degrading subs based on their race, religion and attraction to the same sex, and laughs off critiques that what she is doing is harmful. Harley would have you believe she's amoral and unapologetic, but, she says, she does have limits.
"Crime is a hard limit for me," she said. "I'm also not into scat. So, like, if a guy wants to poop on himself, he can do that for someone else. Otherwise, it's just mostly things that are illegal. If I feel like someone is mentally ill or unbalanced in anyway, I will not continue with that person because I feel like that's unsafe for me."
She says child pornography is an obvious dealbreaker. If she were to find it on a client's computer, she says, she'd end the relationship and report them, but not all scenarios are so universally immoral. Harley cites a particularly odd request from a client whom she eventually cut off.
"He wanted me to steal pictures of his mom, and he had those pictures in a folder labeled 'Mom,'" she said. "Then he paid me to Photoshop women's porn bodies onto pictures of his mom's head and then Photoshop him into the sex scene so that it looked like he was having sex with his mom. I am not a Photoshop expert, so these were all, like, South Park bad, but that's what he wanted."
She said at first she thought it was just weird, but the request was always the same and she eventually ended the relationship because it "felt gross."
Castration, race play, simulated incest. Yes, it's consensual. Yes, it's roleplay. And, yes, it's a job, but when you look at the scope of her work, it's easy to see why people find the Techdomme so threatening. For all of her colorful personality and over-the-top appearance, Harley operates in a moral, ethical gray area.
Throughout my time with Harley, I found myself constantly checking my own prejudices. I consider myself an open-minded person when it comes to the very personal sex acts that happen between consensual adults, but I couldn't quite reconcile some of Harley's more controversial practices. I may never understand what would compel her to coach a client into castration or to use the word "faggot" so liberally, but Harley doesn't care what I think. She doesn't care about you or The Doctors. In fact, what you think of Harley may say more about you then it does about her.
Harley stands behind her work, unashamed and undeterred by the repercussions. When I asked her if her family knew what she did for a living, she said she'd told her mother and assumes everyone will eventually figure it out. In any case, she's not apologizing.
"I'm pretty distinctive-looking, and so it's not like you can mistake me for someone else," she said. "And I don't care. Ultimately, I'm living the life I want to live and anyone who has a problem with that can go fuck themselves."